2/3/16 “Proclaiming Liberty throughout the Land” (Daily Bible Reading: Leviticus 23-25)

“Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family.” (Leviticus 25:9-10).

Can you imagine what it would be like to be in bondage to another person? If you were in that position, can you picture how you long for the day when you could be set free?

One of the interesting events celebrated during Old Testament times was the Year of Jubilee. The year of Jubilee was observed in Israel every 50 years. God understood that because of hard times some Israelites might have to sell their land possessions or even themselves into servitude in order to survive (cf. Leviticus 25:25, 39-40). God also understood that this could lead to the Israelites mistreating those who had fallen upon hard times: “Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 25:17). The Year of Jubilee was instituted by God for the purpose of preventing such oppression of one another.

During this year, those whom had purchased their brethren in servitude or their brethren’s lands because of debts were required to return them to freedom and their lands back to their possession (Leviticus 25:28, 30, 40-41). In addition, the Israelites were not to sow nor reap during this year (Leviticus 25:11). In fact, they would not have sown nor reaped the year prior to this (Leviticus 25:3-4, 8-9). Yet God provided for them: “And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce?’ Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years.” (Leviticus 25:20-21). This year served as a vivid reminder that the Israelites were to trust in God to provide for them, not in themselves.

During this 50th year on the 10th day of the 7th month, the Day of Atonement, the “trumpet of Jubilee” was to sound throughout the land of Israel (Leviticus 25:9). As the opening verses above indicate, liberty was proclaimed throughout the land. It was a time for the Israelites who had been sold into servitude to be made free. It was a time for those who had sold their land in order to pay off debts to be able to reclaim it back (Leviticus 25:10). Can you imagine if you were an Israelite in servitude or had sold you land because of debt how great it would be to hear that trumpet sound?

Jesus taught us that whoever sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34). Satan holds us captive by our own sin. He is unwilling to free us from this bondage. However, Jesus came to free us from this bondage to sin. As I think about the year of Jubilee, I am reminded of the words of Jesus: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).

The longer I live the more I realize how true it is that sin holds us in bondage to Satan. Many souls are enslaved to him and don’t even realize it. Their lives are filled with misery; yet, they don’t know why. I praise God that because of Jesus and His sacrifice for me, God has set me free from this terrible bondage of sin. He has shown me a better way. Today, I celebrate that, even though I had sold myself into slavery by my own sin, Jesus has proclaimed and provided liberty to me!

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

2/2/16 “Glorifying God in a Sex-Crazed World” (Daily Bible Reading: Leviticus 20-22)

“You shall therefore keep all My statutes and all My judgments, and perform them, that the land where I am bringing you to dwell may not vomit you out. And you shall not walk in the statutes of the nation which I am casting out before you; for they commit all these things, and therefore I abhor them” (Leviticus 20:22-23).

Consider the following statistics regarding the sex-crazed society in which we live: Minutes until another pornographic movie is made: 39; Amount spent on pornography each second: $380; Percentage of pornographic websites produced in the U.S.: 89 (source: preaching today). Does God really expect us to be able to keep ourselves pure in the midst of such a sex-crazed society?

In the context of the opening passage above, God describes a long list of sexual sins the nations that were currently in the Promised Land, which Israel was about to inherit, had committed. These sins included adultery (Leviticus 20:10), incest (Leviticus 20:11), homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13), and even bestiality (Leviticus 20:15-16) among others. Because these nations had committed these sexual sins, among other sins, God was casting them out of the land Israel was going to inherit (Leviticus 20:23). The iniquity of the Amorites was complete (cf. Genesis 15:16).

Yet, God, not only believed, but expected His people to keep themselves from being defiled by the society around them (Leviticus 20:22). How? Instead of focusing on the messages sent to them by the culture in which they lived, they were to focus on God’s statutes and commandments (Leviticus 20:23). They were to focus on God’s message and be holy as God is holy (Leviticus 20:26).

We live in an age where sexual immorality is rampant. We are bombarded with commercials that exploit people’s weaknesses to give into sexual lusts. Pornography is a huge business. Christian young people have a difficult time finding a mate who has not already engaged in sexual relations with multiple partners. Our society has taken what God has said He abhors (e.g. adultery and homosexuality) and not only tolerates it, but promotes it! It is a challenge to strive to live a Christian life in such an environment and not allow this to weigh you down.

Sometimes, the tendency as a Christian is just to focus on condemning the world for practicing these things. The result is we come across as being judgmental and this doesn’t exactly attract people to want to follow Christ. The truth of the matter is these sins are just among many sins with which mankind struggles. While these sexual sins are sins which God abhors, God abhors the sins against which we all struggle. All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).

I thank God that He has provided a way through His Son to know His truth, have the opportunity to repent, and be forgiven of my sin (John 14:6). I am also thankful for my brethren who strive to live godly lives in a world where we are constantly bombarded by ungodliness. I acknowledge that as long as I am in the world, I will live in the midst of ungodliness. I refuse to allow the ungodliness around me to diminish my ability to be a light for God to show others who struggle with sin the blessings Christ has brought into my life. Today, I will strive to glorify God in the world in which I live!

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).

2/1/16 “Coming Together for Worship” (Daily Bible Reading: Leviticus 17-19)

“Whatever man of the house of Israel who kills an ox or lamb or goat in the camp, or who kills it outside the camp, and does not bring it to the door of the tabernacle of meeting to offer an offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord, the guilt of bloodshed shall be imputed to that man. He has shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people” (Leviticus 17:3-4).

Where should I go to worship God? Does it matter whether or not I go on a regular basis to church to worship God or can I just worship Him in the place I choose?

The verses above shed some light on this question. These verses are not speaking about the killing of an animal for food purposes, but the killing of an animal as a sacrifice to God. God did not want such animal sacrifices to be made just anywhere, but insisted that such animal sacrifices be brought to the tabernacle of meeting (Leviticus 17:4). The end result God wanted was: “to the end that the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices which they offer in the open field, that they may bring them to the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, to the priest, and offer them as peace offerings to the Lord” (Leviticus 17:5). Notice what God would impute to the person who failed to obey this command of God: God would impute to them the “guilt of bloodshed” (Leviticus 17:4)!

Why was this? First, God considered the death of an animal as a sacrifice to Him as a solemn matter: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11). Second, God was also concerned that His people would also begin practicing false worship if each of them worshipped in the place of their choice. He was concerned that they would be tempted to sacrifice to demons (Leviticus 17:7) and eat the blood of the animal (Leviticus 17:10).

The Old Testament law was taken away when Jesus died on the cross (Ephesians 2:14-16; Hebrews 8:6-8; 9:15-17). As Christians, we do not offer animal sacrifices today or have to assemble together at the Old Testament tabernacle of meeting. This is because the blood of God’s Son Jesus Christ was shed for our sins to make atonement for our souls (1 Peter 1:18-19; Romans 5:11).

However, just as God was concerned in Moses’ day that His people would be tempted to falsely practice worshipping Him in the place of their choice (Leviticus 17:3-4), He is also concerned about Christians today being tempted not to assemble with their fellow saints to worship Him. The Hebrew writer states: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). It is interesting to note in the context of the same passage he speaks about not appreciating the significance of the blood of Christ: “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29)?

I celebrate the sacrifice of God’s Son for my sins. I do not want to treat His blood as a common thing. I understand the importance that God places on my coming together with my fellow Christians to worship Him. I don’t go to church because I have to. I go because I want to! Today, I will strive that whenever the saints meet together I will be there to praise God and what He has done for me!

“Praise the Lord! I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation” (Psalm 111:1)

1/31/16 “The Day of Atonement” (Daily Bible Reading: Leviticus 14-16)

“This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord” (Leviticus 16:29-30).

We who seek to follow God desire His presence to be with us at all times. We want to be able to say as did David, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). However, how can God, who is perfect and holy, dwell among people who are not and fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23)?

The Old Testament feast of the Day of Atonement reminds us of how God made this possible. The word “atonement” is from a Hebrew word which means, “to cover, purge, make an atonement, make reconciliation”. On this Day of Atonement God showed how His people’s sins could be covered or purged so that they could be reconciled to God and He could dwell and be “At-One” with them.

In ancient Israel, God’s presence among the Israelites was represented by the Tabernacle which dwelt in the midst of their camp (Exodus 40:33-38). This Tabernacle contained 2 parts, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. In the Most Holy Place dwelt the Ark of the Covenant above which was the Mercy Seat where God said “there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you…” (Exodus 25:22). Thus, God’s presence would be in Israel’s midst. But how could God who was perfect and holy dwell among this nation who struggled so much with sin?

As the opening verses above indicate (Leviticus 16:29-30), once a year, on the 10th day of the 7th month, a special Day of Atonement was observed. On this day, the High Priest sacrificed a bull as a sin offering for his own sins. After this, he took 2 goats and presented them at the door of the Tabernacle with a view of dealing with the sins of God’s people as a whole. One goat would be slain as a sin offering for the people and its blood brought into the Most Holy Place to make atonement for the sins of Israel (Leviticus 16:15-19). The other goat, the scapegoat, was then presented before God at the tabernacle of meeting. The High Priest would confess over this goat the sins of the children of Israel. This goat would then be sent far away and released in the wilderness, thus to bear the sins of Israel far from the presence of God (Leviticus 16:20-22). Thus God’s presence could be among the Israelites because their sins had been atoned for by the blood of the one goat and their sins removed far away from God’s presence by being borne by the scapegoat in the wilderness!

As I read this, I marvel at the mercy, grace, and justice of God. He made these provisions for Israel looking forward to the time when Christ would come and be sacrificed for the sins of all mankind to satisfy the justice of God. Isaiah wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). He both bore our iniquities and atoned for our sins by His one sacrifice of Himself. Today, I rejoice that God has provided a way for me to have my sins atoned for by the sacrifice of His Son so that I might be reconciled to Him and enjoy His presence in my life!

“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

1/30/16 “Profane Worship or Proper Worship” (Daily Bible Reading: Leviticus 10-13)

“Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:1-2).

Does it matter how we worship God? As long as our intent is to engage in the worship of God, does God care what we do in worship or how we conduct ourselves during worship?

The Biblical account of what happened to Nadab and Abihu clearly shows that it does matter how we worship God. As the opening verses above indicate, fire went out from the Lord and devoured Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, and they died before the Lord. Why did this happen to them? They had “offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:1-2). It is important for us to consider the question: “Why did God have Moses record these events for us?”

It is interesting to note immediately preceding these events, Aaron and his sons, including Nadab and Abihu, had been consecrated to serve the Lord as priests. They had witnessed God’s glory as fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering they had made upon the altar after their consecration (Leviticus 9:24). In fact, there were still portions of these sacrifices that had been offered (Leviticus 9:1-24) that had yet to be eaten by Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 10:12-20).

Now, another fire came out from the Lord and devoured Nadab and Abihu because they offered profane fire before the Lord. Moses then tells Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified’ ” (Leviticus 10:3). There is some question about whether or not Nadab and Abihu were intoxicated when they offered this “strange fire” (cf. Leviticus 10:8-11); nevertheless, regardless of “why” they did this, Nadab and Abihu did do it. They engaged in worship of God that clearly did not please God!

In an age in which everyone seems to do as he or she pleases, sometimes we think we can worship God anyway we please. Some forget that the object of worship is God. We are to strive to please Him by our worship and not please ourselves. Throughout the Scriptures, for example, Cain’s failure to offer the sacrifice God had prescribed (Genesis 4:3-5; Hebrews 11:4) or Uzza’s death because he touched the ark of God which he had not been authorized to do (1 Chronicles 13:9-10), we see that God expects those who come to worship Him are to worship Him according to what pleases Him, not what pleases them! God takes seriously how we approach him in worship and so should we!

In the church I attend our worship service to God involves our engaging in singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), praying (Acts 2:42), giving (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), preaching (Acts 2:42), and weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Acts 20:7) out of grateful hearts praising God (Acts 2:47). While some may view this as a very simplistic worship service, from the above Scriptures, we know the early Christians engaged in these acts of worship and pleased God. We worship God in this way out of respect for His Word and because we desire to please Him!

I am reminded of Jesus’ warning to those of His day, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9). Today, when I am worshipping God, I will strive to make sure that I am worshipping Him according to His Will, not mine!

“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

1/29/16 “Consecrated Priests” (Daily Bible Reading: Leviticus 6-9)

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments, the anointing oil, a bull as the sin offering, two rams, and a basket of unleavened bread; and gather all the congregation together at the door of the tabernacle of meeting’ ” (Leviticus 8:1-3).

What does God expect of those who come to worship Him? While Jesus said we are to worship God in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24), are there any other expectations God has of those worshipping Him? How does the manner we live our daily lives affect the way God receives our worship?

In the book of Leviticus, as God speaks to Moses from the tabernacle of meeting, Moses is given instructions regarding the various animal sacrifices Israel was to offer in worship to God (Leviticus 1:1-7:38). As the opening verses above indicate, following these instructions, God gives guidance regarding the priests who were going to be offering the animal sacrifices. Before these priests were allowed to serve, God has Moses and Israel to consecrate these priests to God (Leviticus 8:1-3).

What does it mean to “consecrate” something? Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious. The word "consecration" literally means "to associate with the sacred". Before the priests would be allowed to serve in being allowed to offer the animal sacrifices in sacred worship to God, they themselves had to undergo a process so they could “associate with the sacred”. This process was known as consecration (cf. Leviticus 8:10, 11, 22, 31, 33).

It is interesting to observe what was done to “consecrate” the priests of Moses’ day. After the entire congregation of Israel gathered together at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, Aaron and his sons are washed with water (Leviticus 8:4-6). Moses then takes garments, which had been made for the priests, and puts the high priest’s garments on Aaron (Leviticus 8:7-9) and the priest’s garments on the sons of Aaron (Leviticus 8:13). He also anoints Aaron with the anointing oil since Aaron is to serve as the high priest for the children of Israel (Leviticus 8:12). Following this, Moses offers a sin offering (Leviticus 8:14-17), and a burnt offering (Leviticus 8:18-21) on behalf of Aaron and his sons. Then an offering of consecration is made, during which Moses takes some of the blood and puts it on the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot of both Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 8:22-32). Aaron and his sons are then charged to stay at the door of the tabernacle of meeting for seven days to finish their days of consecration (Leviticus 8:33-36).

Following these days, Aaron, the High Priest, is allowed to begin offering sacrifices to the Lord on behalf of the people of Israel. Aaron offers a sin offering, a burnt offering, and peace offerings on behalf of the people (Leviticus 9:1-22). Following this, fire comes out before the Lord and consumes the sacrifice on the altar as the people behold the glory of the Lord (Leviticus 9:23-24).

Coming to God in worship is something which is sacred. As Christians, we serve as priests to God. We don’t have to go through a separate priesthood to offer worship to God. Jesus Christ serves as our High Priest (Hebrews 9:11-12). However, these verses from Leviticus remind me that I am to be “consecrated” as a priest to God. In offering worship to God, I need to live a life that is striving to “associate with the sacred” and not entangled in the world and its lusts (cf. Romans 12:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17). I rejoice that God enables me to be a priest. Today, I will strive to live a consecrated life!

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

1/28/16 “Is Ignorance Bliss?” (Daily Bible Reading: Leviticus 3-5)

“If a person sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord, though he does not know it, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity. And he shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him regarding his ignorance in which he erred and did not know it, and it shall be forgiven him. It is a trespass offering; he has certainly trespassed against the Lord” (Leviticus 5:17-19).

Most have heard the saying, “Ignorance is bliss”. What does this mean? This idiom carries the idea of a “Lack of knowledge results in happiness” or “You are more comfortable if you don't know something”. Is this true regarding God’s commands to us? Is it better for us to be ignorant of them?

In the book of Leviticus, Moses continues to receive from God, as He speaks to him from the tabernacle of meeting, instructions on how Israel was to serve God (cf. Leviticus 1:1). As the opening passage above indicates, Israel’s ignorance of God’s law did excuse them when they were guilty of violating God’s law. They were still GUILTY of trespassing God’s law and must BEAR THEIR INIQUITY. Ignorance was not bliss! Committing a sin in ignorance was still committing sin!

But, what is very interesting is God had made provisions for how an Israelite might be forgiven of different types of sins he or she had committed in ignorance. God had provided a way for them to be forgiven when they had become unclean by touching a carcass (Leviticus 5:2), touching human uncleanness (Leviticus 5:3), speaking thoughtlessly with their lips (Leviticus 5:4), in regard to the holy things of the Lord (Leviticus 5:15) or by doing something against any of the commandments of the Lord (Leviticus 4:27). Once the person became aware they had sinned they were to confess they had sinned and bring their offering to the Lord (Leviticus 4:28; 5:4-5).God had even considered a person’s economic condition and what that person could afford to offer as a sacrifice for his sin.

One of the reasons we should study God’s Word diligently is that we might not be ignorant of God’s law and unintentionally sin again Him. David said, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). Peter encourages us to desire God’s Word that we may grow (1 Peter 2:2). Paul encourages Timothy to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). As Christians, we should not desire to remain in ignorance, but understand God’s Will for us!

However, for a new Christian, who is fairly ignorant of all of God’s laws, this can feel overwhelming. In fact, some have discouraged themselves from obeying the gospel of Christ because they feel they do not “know” enough. God does not want this to happen. After we have become Christians, God has provided a way for us to be forgiven of sins we commit in ignorance. The apostle John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). God is FAITHFUL and JUST to forgive us when we have confessed such sins we have committed in ignorance and repented of them.

God’s ability to provide for our spiritual needs is greater than our weaknesses in learning His commandments. God’s grace is greater than our sin! I am thankful that God has given me His Word. I know “ignorance is not bliss”. Today, I will study God Word so that I may understand His Will!

“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord," And You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

1/27/16 “The Consequences of My Sin” (Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 40-Leviticus 2)

“If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord. Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He shall kill the bull before the Lord; and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting” (Leviticus 1:3-5)

How do you view the sins you have committed in your life? Do you treat them lightly since everyone else is committing them or do they weigh heavily on your heart because you realize that in committing them you have failed God and that a terrible price had to be paid because of your sin?

After Moses and the Israelites erect the tabernacle (Exodus 40:1-38), God calls Moses and gives instructions regarding the various sacrifices which were to be offered in worship to Him (Leviticus 1:1-7:38). Among these different offerings to be offered in worship to God was the sacrifice of the burnt offering (Leviticus 1:1-17). God gives detailed instructions of how this was to be offered.

Sometimes, we are tempted to read quickly through some of these Old Testament passages which speak about animal sacrifices without thinking too much about them. However, it is important to our spiritual understanding to note what was involved in these sacrifices. If you take careful note of the opening passage above (Leviticus 1:3-5), you will see the individual Israelite who was bringing this burnt offering had to LAY HIS HAND on the bull and kill it himself (Leviticus 1:4). He would feel the animal breathing and looking around before he killed it. Furthermore, after killing the bull, the person had to skin and cut up the animal (Leviticus 1:6). After this, the individual Israelite had to wash the animal’s entrails and legs himself before giving the priest the rest of the animal was offered on the altar (Leviticus 1:8-9). This had to be a gruesome experience for the Israelite worshipping God!

Why would God require a person to do this? I am not sure of all the reasons, but I do know that it certainly would make the person aware of the consequences of their own sin. They would see that their own sin against God caused the death of another. The ghastly experience of offering an animal sacrifice would help the individual Israelite realize the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

However, all of these animal sacrifices we read about in the Old Testament could not take away the sins of man. The Hebrew writer reminds us, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). These sacrifices were offered in faith looking forward to the time when God would send His own Son, Jesus, to pay the price for the sins of the world (Hebrews 10:1; John 3:16). The apostle Peter writes: “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

How do I view my sin? Do I take it seriously or do I treat it as “no big deal” since everyone else is doing it? May such Old Testament Scriptures as this, cause me to see the serious nature of my own sins. This does not mean that as a Christian I should walk around with a sad face because of my sin. I can rejoice as a Christian because I have been forgiven of our sin through the sacrifice of Christ. Because of GOD’S GREAT LOVE FOR ME he provided Christ as the sacrifice for my sin.

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

1/26/16 “Fully Obeying God” (Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 37-39)

“According to all that the Lord had commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did all the work. Then Moses looked over all the work, and indeed they had done it; as the Lord had commanded, just so they had done it. And Moses blessed them” (Exodus 39:42-43).

Is it really important to follow exactly what God tells us to do? Would God be pleased with us if we just did about 90% of what He tells us to do? Would His grace make up the rest?

As the book of Exodus closes, we observe the children of Israel had just finished making all the materials for the erection of the tabernacle. They had gone through some ups and downs in their walk thus far with God. They had walked through the Red Sea by faith as they escaped the Egyptians (Exodus 14:21-27), but then had complained about where they would get their food to eat and water to drink (Exodus 16:2-3; 17:1-3). They had heard the voice of God as He gave the 10 commandments at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:1-17), but then had failed God by worshipping a golden calf when Moses delayed coming down from the mountain (Exodus 32:1-6). After God had forgiven them, they brought forth fruits of repentance by giving such an abundance of items for the construction of the tabernacle that they had to be restrained from giving more (Exodus 36:6).

It is eye-opening to observe that the later chapters of the book of Exodus go into great detail of how God’s people had carried out the construction of the items of the tabernacle (cf. Exodus 35:4-39:41). They carried out in exact detail the construction of these items as God had earlier instructed Moses (cf. Exodus 25:1-27:21). Along with the opening verses above (Exodus 39:42-43), Moses also records: “Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished. And the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord had commanded Moses; so they did” (Exodus 39:32).

A question that begs to be asked as one reads these verses is: “Why does God bother going into such great detail in the Scriptures telling us of Israel’s doing this?” Like all of the Old Testament Scriptures, these were written for our learning (Romans 15:4). As Christians, we demonstrate our love for God by obeying His precise commandments (John 14:15). When we obey God in such a manner, we are not trying to earn our salvation, but are showing our love and appreciation for God (John 15:14). In reminding us we have been saved by placing our faith in God’s grace and the gift of His Son for our sins, the apostle Paul also reminds us that we have works of God to do: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Like Israel, neither I nor my brethren in Christ are always perfect in our walk with God. We all struggle with sin. While we seek to honor God by resisting temptation, we also seek to glorify God by carrying out the commands which He has given us (Matthew 5:13-16). I appreciate my brethren who seek to show their love to God by obeying His commands. Today, I will not be satisfied with just following some of God’s commands. I will seek to follow all of them!

“The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:8-11).

1/25/16 “A Stirred Heart and a Willing Spirit” (Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 34-36)

“Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the Lord's offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments.” (Exodus 35:21).

How would you describe your zeal for God and your desire to worship and serve Him? Is it a burning zeal or is your desire growing cold? Why do you believe this is?

Following a very low point in Israel’s service to God where they had engaged in idol worship by worshipping the golden calf which Aaron made (Exodus 32:4-6), Moses had become so discouraged with leading Israel, he asks God to “see His glory” ( Exodus 33:18). As the Lord passes by Moses, He covers Moses with His hand, shows Moses His back (Exodus 33:20-23), and proclaims, “The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth…” (Exodus 34:6). Moses falls on his face, worships God, and asks God to forgive His people Israel of their sin, and to continue to go with them (Exodus 34:9). God shows that He is “merciful, gracious, and longsuffering” by forgiving His people (Exodus 34:10).

How does Israel react on this occasion to having been forgiven by God of idol worship? Do they embrace God’s forgiveness? Do they fail to appreciate the grace they have been shown? While Israel does not always act right during these wilderness years, on this occasion they react wonderfully. After Moses returns from having once again to receive additional commandments from the Lord regarding their service to God (Exodus 34:4-29), Moses instructs the children of Israel to bring a freewill offering of different materials for the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 35:4-9).

From a very low point in their relationship with God, when they had failed God by engaging in idol worship, Israel is going to reach a high point in their service to God by giving generously when asked to give materials for the construction of the tabernacle (Exodus 35:20-29). In fact, they give so much, they had to be “restrained from bringing” any more gifts for the construction of the tabernacle of God. (Exodus 36:6). They go from the valley of sin to the mountain top of glory in their service to God.

Why did they give so much? As the opening verses above show, it appears out of great gratitude for having been pardoned of their sin, the people of Israel give generously to the Lord. Their spirits were “stirred” and their hearts were “willing” (Exodus 35:21). Giving from a willing heart was the only requirement God had expected and Israel came through beautifully (Exodus 35:5).

What does God want from me in my worship and service to Him? Does He want me to serve Him because “I have to”? Not only does God want me to worship Him by following the truth, but also by having the right spirit (John 4:24).God does not want me to worship Him out of a spirit of “guilt” because I feel I “have to”. He wants me to serve Him out of a “willing heart” because I am grateful for His pardoning me of my sin through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. He wants my heart to be stirred up because of the love He has shown to me. He wants me to “want to” worship Him!

Although I also am flawed as I struggle with sin, I will worship and serve the Lord out of a willing heart and a stirred spirit as I focus my mind on praising Him for all He has done for me! I want to live on the mountain top in my service to God celebrating the grace and mercy He has shown to me!

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2).

1/24/16 “Show Me Your Glory” (Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 29-33)

“So the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name’. “And he said, ‘Please, show me Your glory’ ” (Exodus 33:18).

Have you ever felt so discouraged you wish you could just see God to help bolster your faith? You believed being able to catch a glimpse of God’s glory would encourage you to keep moving onward.

I believe Moses felt this way. Following his receiving additional instructions from God about how to build the Tabernacle and how to ordain the priests in their service to lead Israel in worship (Exodus 25:1-31:18), Moses learns from God that the people of Israel are down at the bottom of the Mount Sinai worshipping a golden calf which they have made (Exodus 32:1-8).

Since the time they had left Egypt, God’s people had struggled to remain faithful to God. This had to be discouraging to Moses as he attempted to lead them. After escaping Egypt, and seeing Pharaoh’s army by the Red Sea, they had complained to Moses that it would have been better for them to have died in Egypt (Exodus 14:11-12). God delivered them by causing them to pass through the Red Sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:13-31). Following this, Israel complained to Moses about having no water to drink (Exodus 15:24) and no food to eat (Exodus 16:2-3). Again, God provided for their needs (Exodus 15:25-27; 16:4-18). Having now left them to receive God’s commands, Moses’ own brother Aaron had fashioned them a golden calf which they were worshipping and saying, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 32:4).

Now, God had given Moses an opportunity to be finally freed of these wayward people: “And the Lord said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation’ ” (Exodus 32:9-10). To his credit as a godly leader, Moses responds in care and compassion seeking to honor God and asking God to turn from his fierce wrath (Exodus 32:11-12).

However, as Moses comes down from Mount Sinai and beholds what Israel had done, in his anger he breaks the tablets of stone which God had given him containing the commandments (Exodus 32:19). He grinds the golden calf into powder and makes the people of Israel drink it (Exodus 32:20). Moses then has the Levites kill those guilty of promoting this great sin of idol worship (Exodus 32:27-28). Afterward, Moses pleads with God to forgive the people of this great sin (Exodus 32:31-32).

To say the least, Moses had a rough day as leader of God’s people. He must have felt at the end of his rope. He asks God to “show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18). God passes before Moses, covers Moses with His hand, and allows Moses to see His back (Exodus 33:22-23; 34:1-7). God knew Moses needed some encouragement. Seeing God’s glory encouraged Moses to keep leading Israel.

Often, as we serve God we get discouraged. We often get discouraged by the world around us which often doesn’t care about God. We get discouraged with different trials we face. At times, we even get discouraged by our own brethren in Christ when they act indifferent about serving God. We need to stop and behold the glory of God. God’s glory is seen in His marvelous creation all around us. Today, take time to look up and see the glory of God. Be encouraged and uplifted by Him!

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard” (Psalm 19:1-3).

1/23/16 “The Mercy Seat” (Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 25-28)

“You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel” (Exodus 25:21-22).

Do you struggle with studying God’s Word and praying to Him each day? Many of us do. Why is this? Perhaps, it is because we fail to understand the blessing of having this level of access to Him.

After giving the children of Israel many of God’s instructions to them, Moses headed back up to Mount Sinai for God to give him additional instruction to pass on to His people (Exodus 24:12-18). Many of these commandments focused on the Tabernacle where Israel would go worship God. The Lord gives detailed instructions on how this was to be built and what was to be in it (Exodus 25:9-27:21). In one area of this Tabernacle, the Most Holy Place, God instructed Moses to build an ark above which was a mercy seat. God said, “And there I will meet with you…” (Exodus 25:21).

During this period, all the priest were allowed into the first section of the tabernacle called the Holy Place, but only the High Priest was allowed in this Most Holy Place to be able to “meet with God”. The Hebrew writers states: “But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing” (Hebrews 9:7-8). There was no way for a common person of the children of Israel to gain access to the Most Holy Place and “meet with God” at the mercy seat.

However, as Christians we have Christ as our High Priest. He entered the Most Holy Place, not offering the blood of some animal, but coming to offer His own blood. By the sacrifice of Himself, He made it possible for all His followers to be redeemed from their sins: “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-12).

Because of His sacrifice, as Christians, we no longer have to go through a separate high priest to “meet with God”: “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:19-23).

As a Christian, I realize I am in continual need of God’s grace and mercy as I journey through this life. Because of what Christ did for me in sacrificing Himself for my sins, unlike those who lived in the Old Testament period, I don’t have to go through a separate high priest to “meet with God” for me. I have the privilege of meeting with God everyday by letting Him speak to me through His Word and for me to speak with Him through prayer. I rejoice that I have this blessing. Today, I will show I appreciate this blessing by taking time to “meet with God by studying His Word and praying to Him!

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

1/22/16 “Following Through on Our Resolutions” (Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 22-24)

“So Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the Lord has said we will do’ ” (Exodus 24:3).

For those of us who make New Year’s resolutions, how many of them are we still keeping? It is far easier to make a resolution about changing something in our lives, than to actually keep it.

Following God’s speaking the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel, they respond with great fear and ask Moses if he alone would speak to God (Exodus 20:18-19). Moses then draws near the thick darkness where God was (Exodus 20:21) to hear a message the Lord wants Moses to give to His people. God begins giving him many commandments which He expects Israel to keep (Exodus 20:22-23:19). He also promises to drive out the nations from before them so they can inherit the Promised Land if His people will follow God’s commandments (Exodus 23:20-33). He then instructs Moses to go and get Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the 70 elders to worship God from afar and then for Moses to come near to God again by himself to receive additional commandments (Exodus 24:1-2).

However, before doing this, as the opening verse above show, Moses shares with God’s people the commandments which he had received from the Lord so far and the blessings Israel will receive if they follow them (Exodus 24:3). Upon hearing both of the commandments God expects of them and the blessing He promises to give them if they keep them, the people say, “All the words which the Lord has said we will do” (Exodus 24:3). The express a resolution to follow God with all their heart!

What a great resolution for the people to make! Moses writes these words of the Lord, leads the people in worshipping and sacrificing to the Lord and once again reads these commands to the people (Exodus 24:4-7). Once again the people resolutely respond, “All that the Lord has said we will do and be obedient” (Exodus 24:7). Moses then takes some of the blood from the animal sacrifices which they had just made, sprinkles it upon the people and says, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words” (Exodus 24:8).

Although they had made a great resolution and entered into a covenant with God to follow Him, did God’s people follow through in keeping their resolution? Following this, Moses and the leaders of the people, go up to where God had instructed them, and behold God on His throne (Exodus 24:9-11). This amazing sight should have given further motivation for these leaders to want to keep their resolution. God then calls Moses alone to the top of the mountain to receive additional instructions for the people to follow. Moses will spend 40 days and nights on the mountain with God as the people from below behold in awe the mountain covered like a consuming fire (Exodus 24:12-18).

However, before these 40 days and nights had ended, the people renege on their resolution. They specifically violate one of the commandments they had agreed to keep (cf. Exodus 22:20), by calling for Moses’ brother Aaron to, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us” (Exodus 32:1). Aaron heeds their voice and fails to live up to the trust which had been placed in him (Exodus 32:2-6).

It is far easier to make a resolution than to keep it. When I became a Christian, I called Jesus my Lord (cf. Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:9-10). This meant I wanted Him to be the ruler of my life. I let Him rule by submitting to His Will (cf. Luke 6:46). I rejoice that Christ leads me and guides me through my journey on this earth. Today, I will strive to keep my resolution to follow Him!

“With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!” (Psalm 119:10)

1/21/16 “The Fear of God” (Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 19-21)

“Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die’ ” (Exodus 20:18-19).

Does God want us to be afraid of Him? Does it make sense to you that God, who loves us so much that He gave us His Son to die for us (John 3:16), also wants us to have a fear of Him?

Three months following their Exodus from the land of Egypt, the people of Israel come to the Wilderness of Sinai and camp there before Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:1-2). While there God instructs  Moses to tell the people that if they will obey His voice, they shall be His special people and He will bless them (Exodus 19:3-6). Moses speaks to the people and the people agree to God’s terms. Thus, God enters into a covenant relationship with them (Exodus 19:7-8).

God then tells Moses that He will speak directly to the people. He tells Moses, “"Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever” (Exodus 19:9). Moses relays this message to the people and tells them to prepare themselves to hear God (Exodus 19:10-15). The people behold an awesome sight as they stand at the foot of Mount Sinai, observe the thunder and lightning, feel the mountain quaking as it is completely covered in smoke, and hear the blasting of a loud trumpet (Exodus 19:16-19). The people then hear God’s voice as He speaks to them His 10 commandments from Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:1-17).

How do God’s people react to seeing this and hearing God’s voice? As the opening verses above indicate, the people were afraid to hear God speak to them anymore, so they ask Moses to let God speak to them through him (Exodus 20:18-19). Moses comforts them and says, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin” (Exodus 20:20).

Having a fear of God is healthy. God did not want the Israelites to be fearful of the lightning and the mountain smoking, but He did want them to fear Him and show Him the proper respect He deserves. Having the proper fear of God helps us to have a proper perspective of our lives here on this earth.

Having a healthy fear can be illustrated by the parent-child relationship. When I was growing up, I had a fear of my dad. I didn’t want to get in trouble because my mom would simply say, “If you don’t do as I tell you, I will tell your dad when he gets home”. I knew this meant a spanking for me. So I did what she told me to do. My fear of my dad led me to do right. On the other hand, as I grew up I did not fear where my next meal was coming from. I did not fear someone coming into my house to take me away at night because I trusted that my dad would protect our home and provide for our family.

Throughout the Scriptures we are told to fear God (Proverbs 1:7). We are also told God loves us (Romans 5:8). This is not a contradiction. Having a healthy fear of God is good because realizing God’s wrath awaits the wicked discourages us from committing sin. At the same time, by focusing on fearing God, we spend less time and energy in being afraid of other things such as from where our next meal is coming, potential health problems, and other worries and cares that can fill our hearts with anxiety. We trust that He will provide these things for us because He loves us (Matthew 6:25-34). Today, I will strive to have a healthy fear of God so that I might not sin against Him!

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever” (Psalm 111:10).

1/20/16 “Supporting the Hands of Godly Leaders” (Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 16-18)

“So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun” (Exodus 17:10-12).

How do you feel about those who lead? Do you find yourself tending to be critical of those who lead or supportive of those who lead? Being a leader can be a lonely position when you don’t feel the support of those whom you are attempting to lead.

As Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt, he is doing his best to serve God and lead God’s people to the Promised Land which God has given them. However, within a very short period of time, Israel begins heaping criticism upon his leadership. For example, within a few weeks of God’s wiping out Pharaoh and his army by drowning them in the Red Sea, Israel begins complaining to Moses about not having anything to drink (Exodus 15:23-25). Within a month of leaving the slavery of Egypt, God’s people rise up again Moses and Aaron and begin complaining about having a lack of food and even express a desire wishing they had died back in Egypt (Exodus 16:2-3). Again, as they continue their journey from the Wilderness of Sin and encamp at Rephidim, the people complain against Moses and accuse him of bringing them out of Egypt with a motive of trying to kill them with thirst (Exodus 17:1-3). Each time the people complained, Moses, as a godly leader, worked with God and God provided for the people’s needs. There appears to have been no gratitude on part of the people to thank Moses for what he was doing. Being God’s leader was an unappreciated position of service.

As if he was not faced with enough challenges, now Moses has to deal with an attack by the Amalekites upon God’s people (Exodus 17:8). Moses calls upon Joshua to gather some men and go and fight against Amalek. Moses goes to the top of the hill and oversees this battle with the rod of God in his hand (Exodus 17:9). Then, as the opening verses describe, as he holds the rod of God up, God’s people prevail; but, when he is too weak to hold it up, Amalek prevails (Acts 17:10-11). Thankfully, Moses had Aaron and Hur to support his hands and keep them held up so Israel could claim the victory (Exodus 17:12). Without their support, Israel would have not won this battle.

The church needs a lot more people like Aaron and Hur who stand behind godly leaders and offer them their support. Godly leaders have to make very difficult decisions at times, lead the church through the ups and downs, all in an effort to help God’s people towards our Promised Land of Heaven (cf. Hebrews 13:17). At times, like Moses, they hear a lot of criticism from those they are attempting to lead. Many leaders become discouraged and simply give up their leadership positions.

Whether they be elders, preachers, teachers, or other types of servants of God, like Aaron and Hur we should be there beside them to hold up their hands. So often we allow ourselves to become tools of Satan by being critical of a preacher for preaching too long, or a teacher for not being “dynamic” enough, or elders for not making the decisions we think they ought. Satan is doing his best to discourage them in their efforts to serve God. Don’t allow him to use you as his tool to discourage these fellow servants of God. Today, think of someone who is striving to serve God and pray for them and speak a word of encouragement to them.

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).

1/19/16 “Stand Still and See the Salvation of the Lord” (Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 13-15)

“And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace’ ” (Exodus 14:13-14).

Have there been times in your life when you were so overwhelmed by your fears that you forsook your faith in God to help you? Upon honest examination, many of us can relate to times in our lives when we allowed our fears to get the best of us and we struggled with keeping our faith in God.

God had delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage through a series of plagues which he brought upon the Egyptians. The final plague was the death of all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, except those who had observed the Passover by putting the blood of the lamb on the doorpost and lintel of their houses in which they stayed (Exodus 12:6-13). After this terrible plague, the Egyptians urged the Israelites to leave and even gave them their goods to do so (Exodus 12:32-36). Through these series of plagues, God had given His people numerous reasons to place their faith in Him!

The children of Israel begin marching out of Egypt as God directs them (Exodus 13:18). God was displaying his direction and guidance of Israel by going before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). Israel could see God’s presence among them. However, after they leave Egypt, Pharaoh begins having second thoughts about letting them go. In fact, he and his army pursue the Israelites and overtake them by the Red Sea at Pi Hahiroth (Exodus 15:5-9). Now their worst fears have come upon them, the Egyptian army is threatening their lives.

How do they react to this? “And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then they said to Moses, ‘Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, “Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?” For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness’ ” (Exodus 14:9-12). They were so overwhelmed by their fears they actually preferred to go back to Egyptian slavery than to deal with their fears. The Israelites had abandoned their faith in God!

As the opening verses above indicate, Moses encourages the people to keep their faith in God. He tells the people: “Do not be afraid, Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today” (Exodus 14:13). The Angel of God temporarily blocks the Egyptian pursuit and Moses stretches his hand over the Red Sea and the waters are divided (Exodus 14:19-21). Israel passes through the midst of the sea and, as the Egyptians pursue them, the Lord troubles the army of the Egyptians by taking off the wheels of their chariots (Exodus 14:22-25). After the Israelites finish crossing the sea, Moses stretches out his hand over the sea and Pharaoh and his army are drowned as the waters of the sea come upon them (Exodus 14:26-30).

How often do I react like these Israelites? Instead of placing my faith in God, standing still, and remembering His power to deliver me, so often I take my eye off of God and focus on the fears I am facing. When I do so, like the ancient Israelites, I make myself miserable by allowing myself to be overwhelmed by my fears. I rejoice that God encourages me to place my faith in Him. Today, I will strive to stand still and look for God and how He will deliver me from whatever fears I face!

“The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7).

1/18/16 “Our Passover Lamb” (Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 9-12)

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:12-13).

How important is justice to you? All of us want to live in a world where justice is carried out. We want criminals and those who hurt others to be punished. However, we are less eager for justice to be carried out when we have done the wrong. During such times, we hope mercy will be shown to us.

As the verse above indicates, God’s final judgment had come upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. God had sent multiple plagues upon the Egyptians in an effort to open Pharaoh’s eyes that God was the Lord and that Pharaoh should humble himself before God and let the Israelites go. However, instead of softening his heart and humbling himself before God, following each plague Pharaoh’s heart continued to grow harder and harder against God (cf. Exodus 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12, 34; 10:20, 27; 11:10). In stubborn rebellion, Pharaoh refused to repent of his sin against God.

Pharaoh’s rebellion against God would have terrible consequences for him and his nation. God informed Moses of one final plague he was bringing upon Egypt: “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will bring yet one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will surely drive you out of here altogether’ ” (Exodus 11:1). Moses informed his people of the details of this terrible plague: “Then Moses said, ‘Thus says the Lord: “About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt; and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the animals” ’ ” (Exodus 11:4-5). Pharaoh’s sin would result in the death of all the firstborn children and animals in Egypt.

On the other hand, God had provided an opportunity for the Israelites to be spared of this judgment. God had instituted the Passover memorial for the Israelites. As the opening verses above indicate, God tells His people when He sees the blood of the lamb over their doorposts and lintels of their houses, He would pass over them and they would be spared this terrible plague of the death of their firstborn (Exodus 12:12-13). As the Israelites feared God and obeyed His instructions for them, instead of experiencing God wrath and judgment, they would experience God’s grace and mercy.

This section of Scripture reminds me of the dreadful consequences of sin. The end result of sin is death (Romans 6:23). My sins result in my deserving to die. However, like the Israelites, as a Christian, I have been given the opportunity to have my sins passed over through the sacrifice of Christ. Christ is my Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Praise God that I have been covered by the blood of Christ and have been spared of the terrible death I deserved. Praise God that I do not have to experience His wrath as did Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Today, I will remember that Christ is my Passover who bore my sins that I might be spared of God’s judgment over my sins. I enjoy God’s mercy and grace because I have been saved by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ!

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

1/17/16 “Hearing God above the Circumstances” (Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 5-8)

“So Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel; but they did not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit and cruel bondage.” (Exodus 6:10).

Do you ever struggle with being able to listen to God because of the various trials going on in your life? Intellectually you know you should be focusing on what God has to say to you through His Word, but because of the difficulties through which you are going you find yourself not hearing Him.

Following the Lord’s encounter with Moses at the burning bush, Moses and Aaron come to the Israelites to tell them that the Lord has looked upon their affliction and has visited to them. God’s people welcome the news: “And Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken to Moses. Then he did the signs in the sight of the people. So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 4:30-31). The Israelites heard what God had to say to them.

However, following Moses’ initial request for Pharaoh to let Israel go and serve God, Pharaoh responded by adding additional burdens to the children of Israel and increasing the hardship of their slavery unto him (Exodus 5:5-19). Pharaoh assumed this request of Moses was made because the children of Israel were idle and had too much time on their hands. He orders the enslaved Israelites to go and get their own straw for the bricks they were making for him while not reducing their daily quota of bricks to be made. The Israelites could not keep up the daily quota of bricks under these circumstances and the Israelite officers in charge were beaten for failing to do this (Exodus 5:16).

These Israelite officers confront Moses and Aaron: “Then, as they came out from Pharaoh, they met Moses and Aaron who stood there to meet them. And they said to them, ‘Let the Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us’ ” (Exodus 5:20-21). Things were becoming worse for them, not better, since they had decided to follow Moses in seeking for Pharaoh to let them go out of Egypt to worship God. It is safe to say they were very discouraged. Even Moses got disheartened by this: “So Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all’ ” (Exodus 5:22-23).

In His response to these circumstances, God encouraged both Moses and the people by letting them know He was going to fulfill His promises to give them the Promised Land. God said, “I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord." (Exodus 6:8-9). However, as the opening verse above indicates, the people were so discouraged by what had happened to them they refused to heed this promise of God (Exodus 6:9).

God has given us many precious promises throughout His Word (cf. 2 Peter 1:3-4). However, like Israel, we must guard against allowing the challenging circumstances we often find in our daily lives to drown out our ability to listen to God. I rejoice that God speaks to me through His Word. Today, I will strive to hear God above the circumstances that come into my life today!

“This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life.” (Psalm 119:50).

1/16/16 “Called Out of the Comfort Zone” (Daily Bible Reading: Exodus 1-4)

“‘Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ ” (Exodus 3:11)

How do you feel about trying something new or something which you had failed at before? For some of us it can be very challenging to try something new or something at which we had previously failed.

Moses was a great servant of God. He was the one who led God’s people out of the slavery of Egypt and towards the Promised Land God had given to them. However, as the opening verses above indicate, he did not exactly jump at the opportunity to lead God’s people out of Egypt. In fact, he is reluctant to do this. He says to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt”? (Exodus 3:11). Why was Moses so hesitant to do this?

Moses had been born during hard times for God’s people Israel. In Egypt, there arose a king who had forgotten all the good Joseph had done for Egypt (Exodus 1:8). Because he viewed the Israelites as a potential threat, he enslaved them (Exodus 1:9-14). Furthermore, Pharaoh tried to have all the male Hebrew children killed at birth (Exodus 1:15-22); but, in faith, Moses’ parents placed baby Moses in an ark by the river bank where he was later seen and picked up by Pharaoh’s own daughter (Hebrews 11:23; Exodus 2:1-6). Pharaoh’s daughter raised him up as her own and, through God’s providence, Moses’ own biological mother served as his nurse (Exodus 2:7-10).

As Moses grew, he learned of his Hebrew heritage from his mother. He understood the plight of his people and was willing to suffer with them (cf. Hebrews 11:24-26). In fact, when he was 40 years old, he had attempted to lead his people out of Egypt. On an occasion at that time, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his Hebrew brethren. He arose and killed the Egyptian (Exodus 2:11-12). He thought his brethren would rise up to follow him, but they did not (Acts 7:22-25). When he realizes Pharaoh had discovered he had killed an Egyptian and his Israelite brethren were not going to follow his lead, Moses fled Egypt (Exodus 2:13-15). Moses first attempt to lead the Israelites had failed!

At this time, Moses fled Egypt for the land of Midian (Exodus 2:15). While there he gets married, settles down, and has a family (Exodus 2:16-22). In fact, the Biblical text says that Moses “was content” to live there (Exodus 2:21). It appears he no longer had the strong desire to lead his brethren out of Egypt. Now, 40 years later (cf. Acts 7:30), Moses had found his “comfort zone”.

However, God had seen the affliction of His people and needs a leader to lead them out (Exodus 2:23-25). To whom did He turn? A man who had failed before and was now settled in his “comfort zone”. He calls Moses from the burning bush and tells Moses He has heard His people’saffliction and has come down to deliver them (Exodus 3:1-9). Although Moses tries to make excuses as to why he should not lead God’s people, God will not let him get away with excuses (cf. Exodus 3:10-14; 4:1-16). Moses is the man God has chosen and God will use him to lead his people!

What task does God have for me? Whether it is something new or something at which I had failed before, I must be willing to leave my “comfort zone”, not make excuses, and let God lead me to serve Him! God can use me to glorify Him by my life (Matthew 5:13-16). Today, I rejoice that, even with all my weakness and previous failures, God can use me for great things!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

1/15/16 “Carry Up My Bones from Here” (Daily Bible Reading: Genesis 48-50).

“And Joseph said to his brethren, ‘I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.’” (Genesis 50:24-25).

When you die how much thought have you given to what is done with your body? If you plan to be buried, have you already picked out your burial plots as to wear your remains are to be laid?

Joseph had lived a faithful life in service to God. He had suffered much during his life such as being sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37:28) and being wrongfully imprisoned regarding something he had not done (Genesis 39:20). However, in the midst of his suffering he remained faithful to God. God blessed Joseph by giving him favor amongst those whom he found himself (Genesis 39:2, 4, 21). In fact, God would use Joseph to save Israel from the coming famine by working in Joseph’s life so Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, would promote him to be in charge of preparing for and administering food during a great famine (Genesis 41:39-57). During the famine, Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt in search of food and Joseph provides it for them along with revealing himself to them (Genesis 45:3-8). He invites them, along with their father Jacob, to come and live in Egypt (Genesis 45:9-15). His brothers go back, get their father, and come back to Egypt and they experience a wonderful family reunion (Genesis 46:26-30). Joseph had certainly lived a full life in which he walked both in the valley of sorrows and on the mountaintops of great joys!

When Joseph was in the midst of all the suffering he experienced, what had enabled him to hold on and not give up? As he found himself sold in slavery by his own brothers or in the prison dungeon for a crime he did not commit, why did he not just “throw in the towel” or even start blaming God for allowing these things to happen to him? It was his hope in God. He clung to his hope that God would sustain him through these terrible trials and provide for him a better future. What was his hope?

Joseph’s hope was that God would give His people Israel the Promised Land of Canaan and a Savior to save the world. This hope was based on promises God had made to Joseph’s great grandfather Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:4-5, 13-16; 22:15-18), his grandfather Isaac (Genesis 26:2-5), and his own father Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15). Joseph’s belief in these promises of God is evident from the instructions he gives regarding what is to be done with his bones when he dies. Along with his father Jacob (cf. Genesis 47:29-30), as the opening verses above indicate, he did not want his bones left in Egypt. He wanted them to be buried in the Promised Land of Canaan (Genesis 50:24-25). Even as Joseph lay dying, his hope in God’s fulfilling His promises sustained him!

As I go through the ups and downs of life do I cling to the promises God has made to me regarding my future? As Christians, through the blood of Christ, God has saved us from our sins (Matthew 26:28). We also have hope that our bones will not be left here on earth, but will be resurrected from the grave (John 11:25-26). Today, I will cling to God’s promises and allow them to sustain me!

“Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil (Hebrews 6:17-19).