FRIDAY 09.30.16 – Clear support for new leadership

Daily Scripture: Deuteronomy 31:1-8

31:1 Then Moses said these words to all Israel, 2 telling them:

I’m 120 years old today. I can’t move around well anymore. Plus, the Lord told me “You won’t cross the Jordan River.” 3 But the Lord your God, he’s the one who will cross over before you! He’s the one who will destroy these nations before you so you can displace them. Joshua too will cross over before you just like the Lord indicated. 4 The Lord will do to these enemies the same thing he did to the Amorite kings Sihon and Og, and to their land, when he destroyed them. 5 The Lord will lay them out before you, and you will do to them exactly what the command I’ve given you dictates. 6 Be strong! Be fearless! Don’t be afraid and don’t be scared by your enemies, because the Lord your God is the one who marches with you. He won’t let you down, and he won’t abandon you.

7 Then Moses called Joshua and, with all Israel watching, said to him: “Be strong and fearless because you are the one who will lead this people to the land the Lord swore to their ancestors to give to them; you are the one who will divide up the land for them. 8 But the Lord is the one who is marching before you! He is the one who will be with you! He won’t let you down. He won’t abandon you. So don’t be afraid or scared!”

Read other translations at Biblegateway.com or youversion.com.

Reflection Questions

Numbers 27 told about Moses following God’s directions and authorizing Joshua to succeed him in leading the Israelites. As Moses neared the end of his life, he made it plain to Israel that he was not irreplaceable: “The Lord told me ‘You won’t cross the Jordan River.’ But the Lord your God, he’s the one who will cross over before you!” Moses knew he’d led in God’s power, not his own. He blessed Joshua, and urged him and the people to fearlessly trust God.

  • Have you ever seen a case in which a corporate leader, a government official, a church pastor or even a family patriarch clung to power too long, harming both himself/herself and the people they had served? What kind of attitude and inner spirit does it take to recognize, like Moses, that while we have gifts to offer, only our God is irreplaceable?
  • Numbers 12:3 said, “Now the man Moses was humble, more so than anyone on earth.” (Pastor Hamilton has observed that if Moses wrote that about himself, it wasn’t true!) If the first generation of Israelites had been willing to trust God and enter the Promised Land, surely Moses would have led them. Yet in his parting words, forty years later, we hear no trace of bitterness or blame. What lessons can you learn from Moses about dealing with disappointments, especially if other people have played a major role in them?

Prayer

O God, help me meet all of life’s ups and downs with grace, not necessarily because I am graceful but because you are gracious. I’m not Moses—but help me to learn from him. Amen.

 

Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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THURSDAY 09.29.16 – The crucial decision: “Choose life”

Daily Scripture: Deuteronomy 30:15-20

15 Look here! Today I’ve set before you life and what’s good versus death and what’s wrong. 16 If you obey the Lord your God’s commandments that I’m commanding you right now by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments, his regulations, and his case laws, then you will live and thrive, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and so are misled, worshipping other gods and serving them, 18 I’m telling you right now that you will definitely die. You will not prolong your life on the fertile land that you are crossing the Jordan River to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth as my witnesses against you right now: I have set life and death, blessing and curse before you. Now choose life—so that you and your descendants will live— 20 by loving the Lord your God, by obeying his voice, and by clinging to him. That’s how you will survive and live long on the fertile land the Lord swore to give to your ancestors: to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Read other translations at Biblegateway.com or youversion.com.

Reflection Questions

There was profound urgency in the simple, stark way Moses set the ultimate spiritual choice before the Israelites: life or death? And how much resonance it would have had if it was the scroll found in King Josiah’s time (cf. 2 Kings 22 ff), as that righteous king tried to eliminate shrines to pagan gods while restoring the badly neglected Temple. Bluntly put, God is the ultimate source of all true life. To choose to live apart from God is, then, to refuse life.

  • Methodist teacher Leslie Newbigin wrote, “God did not want us to know evil; he wanted us to know only good. But there creeps in that little snake of suspicion: ‘Should we not find out for ourselves the other side of the picture? … Let us find out for ourselves what is good and what is evil. Surely we can’t simply trust God for that!’ And so…the bond of trust is broken, and we are lost…. We hide ourselves from God; we compete with each other…. Right through the Bible runs the anguish of God as he seeks his foolish people….God will not leave us until he has won us back to be his children.”1 Picture yourself hearing the aged Moses plead, “Choose life.” What’s your choice—how does your heart respond?

Prayer

Lord God, I like choosing from many different brands when I shop, or having many options when I go to the movies. Help me to choose life in you, not just for an evening but for all my life. Amen.

 

1 Lesslie Newbigin, A Walk Through the Bible. Kansas City: Barefoot Ministries, 1999, pp. 16-18.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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WEDNESDAY 09.28.16 – Warning against self-sufficiency

Daily Scripture: Deuteronomy 7:7-9, 8:11-18

7:7 It was not because you were greater than all other people that the Lord loved you and chose you. In fact, you were the smallest of peoples! 8 No, it is because the Lord loved you and because he kept the solemn pledge he swore to your ancestors that the Lord brought you out with a strong hand and saved you from the house of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh, Egypt’s king. 9 Know now then that the Lord your God is the only true God! He is the faithful God, who keeps the covenant and proves loyal to everyone who loves him and keeps his commands—even to the thousandth generation!

8:11 But watch yourself! Don’t forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commands or his case laws or his regulations that I am commanding you right now. 12 When you eat, get full, build nice houses, and settle down, 13 and when your herds and your flocks are growing large, your silver and gold are multiplying, and everything you have is thriving, 14 don’t become arrogant, forgetting the Lord your God:

the one who rescued you from Egypt, from the house of slavery;

15 the one who led you through this vast and terrifying desert of poisonous snakes and scorpions, of cracked ground with no water;

the one who made water flow for you out of a hard rock;

16 the one who fed you manna in the wilderness, which your ancestors had never experienced, in order to humble and test you, but in order to do good to you in the end.

17 Don’t think to yourself, My own strength and abilities have produced all this prosperity for me. 18 Remember the Lord your God! He’s the one who gives you the strength to be prosperous in order to establish the covenant he made with your ancestors—and that’s how things stand right now.

Read other translations at Biblegateway.com or youversion.com.

Reflection Questions

Sometimes when a nation or a company faces a big challenge, their leaders seek to energize them by telling them what special, exceptional people they are. But Moses had led this group for 40 years—he couldn’t honestly give them a pep talk about how awesome they were. Instead, he reminded them that it was important for them to live out God’s values. Only when they did that could they depend on God’s blessings.

  • The next time you hear an ad telling you that you “deserve” some luxury as a reward for all your hard work and success, keep Deuteronomy 8:17 in mind: “Don’t think to yourself, My own strength and abilities have produced all this prosperity for me.” Do you agree with the outlook that says it is God “who gives you the strength to be prosperous”? How can you believe that without devaluing your own effort and dedication?
  • Events like the recent Olympics put our focus on national identities. It’s logical to cheer when “our” athletes win. It’s fun and harmless—unless we forget what Moses said to Israel: “It was not because you were greater than all other people that the Lord loved you and chose you.” Under our surface differences, we are, in Archibald Macleish’s phrase, “riders on the earth together.” How central has feeling greater than other people been to your identity? How can you rejoice in being a child of God, like all other human beings?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you said “people who are humble” will inherit the earth. So much in this world pushes back against that. Help me to understand true humility, not as feeling worthless, but as rooting my worth in you, not in myself. Amen.

 

Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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TUESDAY 09.27.16 – Teach your children

Daily Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:5-9, 20-25

5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. 6 These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. 7 Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them on your hand as a sign. They should be on your forehead as a symbol. 9 Write them on your house’s doorframes and on your city’s gates.

20 In the future, your children will ask you, “What is the meaning of the laws, the regulations, and the case laws that the Lord our God commanded you?” 21 tell them: We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. But the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our own eyes, the Lord performed great and awesome deeds of power against Egypt, Pharaoh, and his entire dynasty. 23 But the Lord brought us out from there so that he could bring us in, giving us the land that he swore to our ancestors. 24 Then the Lord commanded us to perform all these regulations, revering the Lord our God, so that things go well for us always and so we continue to live, as we’re doing right now. 25 What’s more, we will be considered righteous if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, just as he commanded us.

Read other translations at Biblegateway.com or youversion.com.

Reflection Questions

It appears that the Israelites alive at the time of Moses’ message had learned from the mistake their parents made. They were not afraid to follow God’s leading into the Promised Land. But it was not enough for God’s mission in the world that just they be faithful. It was vital that they not let their faith die with them, but that they teach it to their children and future generations.

  • Who (if anyone) were the people in your childhood and youth who taught you about God’s covenant, about the principles by which God calls you to live? Did they do it in effective ways that won your respect and affection, or did you reach a point at which you rebelled against the way of life they tried to teach you? What good things do you carry with you from that background?
  • In what ways today are you actively seeking to transmit your faith to people who are younger than you are? If you have children or grandchildren, how have you learned to make the faith appealing to them, and not just a tiresome set of rules that make no sense to them? If you do not have children of your own, how can you be an effective communicator and example of faith to younger people?

Prayer

Living Lord, make of my life a beacon of faith and hope, an example and inspiration to younger people to follow you. Remind me every day that you call me to be one of your human partners and instruments in your saving mission in this world. Amen.

 

Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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MONDAY 09.26.16 – Repeating the commandments, renewing the covenant

Daily Scripture: Deuteronomy 1:1,5; 5:1-22

1:1 These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan River, in the desert, on the plain across from Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Di-zahab.

5 Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this Instruction.

5:1 Moses called out to all Israel, saying to them: “Israel! Listen to the regulations and the case laws that I’m recounting in your hearing right now. Learn them and carefully do them. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Mount Horeb. 3 The Lord didn’t make this covenant with our ancestors but with us—all of us who are here and alive right now. 4 The Lord spoke with you face-to-face on the mountain from the very fire itself. 5 At that time, I was standing between the Lord and you, declaring to you the Lord’s word, because you were terrified of the fire and didn’t go up on the mountain.”

The Lord said:

6 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

7 You must have no other gods before me. 8 Do not make an idol for yourself—no form whatsoever—of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. 9 Do not bow down to them or worship them because I, the Lord your God, am a passionate God. I punish children for their parents’ sins—even to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me. 10 But I am loyal and gracious to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

11 Do not use the Lord your God’s name as if it were of no significance; the Lord won’t forgive anyone who uses his name that way.

12 Keep the Sabbath day and treat it as holy, exactly as the Lord your God commanded: 13 Six days you may work and do all your tasks, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Don’t do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your oxen or donkeys or any of your animals, or the immigrant who is living among you—so that your male and female servants can rest just like you. 15 Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That’s why the Lord your God commands you to keep the Sabbath day.

16 Honor your father and your mother, exactly as the Lord your God requires, so that your life will be long and so that things will go well for you on the fertile land that the Lord your God is giving you.

17 Do not kill.

18 Do not commit adultery.

19 Do not steal.

20 Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.

21 Do not desire and try to take your neighbor’s wife.

Do not crave your neighbor’s house, field, male or female servant, ox, donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.

22 Those are the words the Lord spoke to your entire assembly with a loud voice while on the mountain, from the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick smoke. He added no more. God wrote them on two stone tablets, then gave them to me.

Read other translations at Biblegateway.com or youversion.com.

Reflection Questions

“Deuteronomy” comes from Greek words that meant “second law,” first used to identify the book in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Many mainline and Hebrew scholars believe the book may have been put in the form in which we now have it around the time of Judah’s righteous King Josiah (cf. 2 Kings 22:8-13). It preserved the essence of Moses’ final words to Israel. Early on, it stressed God’s covenant love for Israel, and recited (with some slightly modified words) the Ten Commandments.

  • Deuteronomy was set at the end of Israel’s wilderness wandering. They prepared to enter the Promised Land now that the fearful generation we learned about last week died (cf. Numbers 14:21-23). What made it important for Moses to emphasize that “the Lord didn’t make this covenant with our ancestors but with us—all of us who are here and alive right now”? We humans are time-bounded, but God is eternal. What helps you trust that as a believer today you are also included in God’s unending covenant love?
  • If God wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets, how could the wording in Deuteronomy 5 differ, even slightly, from that in Exodus 20? Remember, Israel stored the stone tablets in the Most Holy Place of the Temple, where only the high priest could go, and only on the yearly Day of Atonement. The writer, in one or both books, couldn’t just call up the exact wording on his smart phone! Did the eternal value of the Commandments rest in the exact words, or in the timeless life principles they expressed?

Prayer

Holy God, thank you for being a God of your word, whose love and commitment to us don’t change even when we struggle. Inscribe the principles of your law on my heart. Amen.

 

Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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SUNDAY 09.25.16 – Prayer Tip

Daily Scripture

Deuteronomy 6:4-7, 20-21, 8:12-14, 17-18: [Then Moses said,] “Israel, listen! Our God is the LORD! Only the LORD! Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children… In the future, your children will ask you, “What is the meaning of the laws, the regulations, and the case laws that the LORD our God commanded you?” tell them: We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. But the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.”

Prayer Tip

What if I told you that you could have the cell phone number of the President of the United States? Or, that you could see the Queen of England any time you wanted to. Wouldn’t you feel honored to have direct access to such an important person? Wouldn’t you feel safe knowing that you had the ear of someone so powerful? The truth is we have direct access to someone more powerful than anyone on this Earth.

Sometimes it is easy to take the gift of prayer for granted. God welcomes us to come to him anytime with our concerns and problems. He doesn’t have office hours and days off. You don’t have to download an app for access. You simply need to bow your head and you are able to speak to the creator of the universe. What a blessing it is to know we can call on his name!

Heavenly father, you are a good and loving father. Thank you for the gift of prayer and the gift of your presence. Please help us to remember to turn to you first so you can hear our prayers and guide our hearts and minds. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 – Ashly Cooley, Counseling & Support Ministries


Join us for worship today click here for information on worship times and locations. If you are not in the Kansas City area, you can take part in our worship via live Web stream at rezonline.org.

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SATURDAY 09.24.16 – “Don’t rebel against the Lord”—but they did

Daily Scripture: Numbers 14:1-10, 20-25

14:1 The entire community raised their voice and the people wept that night. 2 All the Israelites criticized Moses and Aaron. The entire community said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt or if only we had died in this desert! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our children will be taken by force. Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to each other, “Let’s pick a leader and let’s go back to Egypt.”

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the assembled Israelite community. 6 But Joshua, Nun’s son, and Caleb, Jephunneh’s son, from those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite community, “The land we crossed through to explore is an exceptionally good land. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he’ll bring us into this land and give it to us. It’s a land that’s full of milk and honey. 9 Only don’t rebel against the Lord and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are our prey. Their defense has deserted them, but the Lord is with us. So don’t be afraid of them.” 10 But the entire community intended to stone them.

Then the Lord’s glory appeared in the meeting tent to all the Israelites.

20 Then the Lord said, “I will forgive as you requested. 21 But as I live and as the Lord’s glory fills the entire earth, 22 none of the men who saw my glory and the signs I did in Egypt and in the desert, but tested me these ten times and haven’t listened to my voice, 23 will see the land I promised to their ancestors. All who disrespected me won’t see it. 24 But I’ll bring my servant Caleb into the land that he explored, and his descendants will possess it because he has a different spirit, and he has remained true to me. 25 Since the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valley, tomorrow turn and march into the desert by the route of the Reed Sea.”

Read other translations at Biblegateway.com or youversion.com.

Reflection Questions

The Israelites, panicked by the negative report of ten of the twelve men who’d “spied out” the Promised Land, were ready to mutiny. Two of the spies—Caleb and Joshua—begged Israel to trust God, and not refuse to go into the Promised Land. But the people were ready to stone them (and Moses) to death, and choose another leader to take them back to Egypt—until God’s glory intervened. Fear would not win out to that absurd extent. But God did honor their negative choice. Except for Caleb and Joshua, God said, Israel would stay in the wilderness until all of those who didn’t want to go into the Promised Land reached the end of their lives.

  • Read verses 6-9 again, aloud if you can. Feel the pathos, the desperation, in Caleb and Joshua’s plead to the people. Imagine their feelings the next day as they packed up their tents and marched, not toward the “exceptionally good land” they had seen briefly on their scouting trip, but away from it, into the desolate Sinai landscape. God offers you an exceptionally good life, full of purpose, challenge and meaning, leading to eternity in a world made new with all the good things God has always intended for human life. Yet it can be scary to choose that life. How can you keep fear from making you turn your back on God’s exceptionally good life? How can you set your life’s course firmly in the direction of God’s promised land?

Prayer

O God, lead me ever onward. Guard my heart and mind from the lure of nostalgia for the “Egypt” from which you have set me free. Keep my path steady all the way to an eternity with you. Amen.

Family Activity

In all families, we can say words that give courage and strength, or words that tear down and discourage. Read Ephesians 4:29. Create a family jar of encouragement and faith. Cut out 30-40 slips of paper. On each slip, write a word or phrase of love, support, care or hope. Think about what words lift you up and include those as a blessing to others. Place all of the slips in a jar. Any time a family member has spoken words that hurt, he or she can then pull out a slip of paper, apologize, then (from the heart) say something encouraging. Better yet, work toward not speaking hurtful words at all. When you need help, go to the jar for ideas and inspiration! Ask God to help you use your words for good.

 

Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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FRIDAY 09.23.16 – A frightening report from 10 of 12 spies

Daily Scripture: Numbers 13:1-3, 17-20, 25-33

13:1 The Lord spoke to Moses: 2 Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, which I’m giving to the Israelites. Send one man from each ancestral tribe, each a chief among them. 3 So Moses sent them out from the Paran desert according to the Lord’s command. All the men were leaders among the Israelites.

17 When Moses sent them out to explore the land of Canaan, he said to them, “Go up there into the arid southern plain and into the mountains. 18 You must inspect the land. What is it like? Are the people who live in it strong or weak, few or many? 19 Is the land in which they live good or bad? Are the towns in which they live camps or fortresses? 20 Is the land rich or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Be courageous and bring back the land’s fruit.” It was the season of the first ripe grapes.

25 They returned from exploring the land after forty days. 26 They went directly to Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite community in the Paran desert at Kadesh. They brought back a report to them and to the entire community and showed them the land’s fruit. 27 Then they gave their report: “We entered the land to which you sent us. It’s actually full of milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 There are, however, powerful people who live in the land. The cities have huge fortifications. And we even saw the descendants of the Anakites there. 29 The Amalekites live in the land of the arid southern plain; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the mountains; and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan.”

30 Now Caleb calmed the people before Moses and said, “We must go up and take possession of it, because we are more than able to do it.”

31 But the men who went up with him said, “We can’t go up against the people because they are stronger than we.” 32 They started a rumor about the land that they had explored, telling the Israelites, “The land that we crossed over to explore is a land that devours its residents. All the people we saw in it are huge men. 33 We saw there the Nephilim (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We saw ourselves as grasshoppers, and that’s how we appeared to them.”

Read other translations at Biblegateway.com or youversion.com.

Reflection Questions

With the law given (and re-given) at Sinai, God instructed Moses to lead the people toward the Promised Land. As they got close, Moses sent out 12 spies, one from each tribe, to scout the land. After all, none of them had ever been there. They reported that yes, it was a good, fruitful land. But 10 of the 12 spies were also gripped by fear, and said they didn’t dare try to take the land. They seemed to utterly forget that God’s power, not their own, had brought them this far.

  • Notice how the report of the 10 changed as their fears deepened. At first they said they saw “the descendants of the Anakites”—tall people (maybe 6’4”) who were supposed to be descended from “the Nephilim” (a legendary angel/human hybrid people). The second time through, they’d seen “huge men,” and the Nephilim themselves, in the land! Have you ever been in the grip of a fear that kept magnifying the danger of a situation beyond what it actually was?
  • One of the spies, Caleb, refused to join in the others’ fear-driven report. “We are more than able to do it,” was his resolute, courageous report to the people. What kind of inner spiritual/psychological compass does it take to speak out with courage and hope when everyone around you is gripped by fear? Have you ever had the privilege of knowing a Caleb?

Prayer

Lord God, this is such a sad story. Everything you’d promised was right there in reach—but their fear blocked the way. Help my faith and courage to keep growing, so that I do not let fear block me from whatever you call me to. Amen.

 

Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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THURSDAY 09.22.16 – How quickly the Israelites forgot

Daily Scripture: Exodus 32:1-14

32:1 The people saw that Moses was taking a long time to come down from the mountain. They gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come on! Make us gods who can lead us. As for this man Moses who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we don’t have a clue what has happened to him.”

2 Aaron said to them, “All right, take out the gold rings from the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took out the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 He collected them and tied them up in a cloth. Then he made a metal image of a bull calf, and the people declared, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf. Then Aaron announced, “Tomorrow will be a festival to the Lord!” 6 They got up early the next day and offered up entirely burned offerings and brought well-being sacrifices. The people sat down to eat and drink and then got up to celebrate.

7 The Lord spoke to Moses: “Hurry up and go down! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, are ruining everything! 8 They’ve already abandoned the path that I commanded. They have made a metal bull calf for themselves. They’ve bowed down to it and offered sacrifices to it and declared, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 The Lord said to Moses, “I’ve been watching these people, and I’ve seen how stubborn they are. 10 Now leave me alone! Let my fury burn and devour them. Then I’ll make a great nation out of you.”

11 But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, “Lord, why does your fury burn against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and amazing force? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘He had an evil plan to take the people out and kill them in the mountains and so wipe them off the earth’? Calm down your fierce anger. Change your mind about doing terrible things to your own people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, whom you yourself promised, ‘I’ll make your descendants as many as the stars in the sky. And I’ve promised to give your descendants this whole land to possess for all time.’” 14 Then the Lord changed his mind about the terrible things he said he would do to his people.

Read other translations at Biblegateway.com or youversion.com.

Reflection Questions

Moses went up Mount Sinai to meet with God (cf. Exodus 24:12). According to Exodus 25-31, God had a lot to tell him. But while he was gone, the Israelites relapsed into their Egyptian ways, demanding, “Give us a visible ‘god.’” (Unspoken, but very much a part of their demand: “Ignore the second commandment”). Moses’ brother Aaron gave in to their pleas, sculpted a golden bull, and identified the statue as “the Lord” (verse 5).

  • As we read this, it is haunting to recall the Israelites saying, ““Everything that the Lord has said we will do, and we will obey,” (Exodus 24:7) just before Moses sprinkled them with the blood of the covenant. Did you ever make a promise (to someone else, yourself or God) fully intending to keep it—and then crash into the reality that you’d forgotten or ignored your promise? How important does God’s grace, God’s willingness to give you a fresh start, become at those times?
  • Taken alone, verses 10-14 of this reading sounded as though God was set on wiping out faithless Israel, and Moses had to talk God out of it. But we cannot take them alone. Two chapters later, God revealed himself to Moses, saying, “The Lord! The Lord! a God who is compassionate and merciful, very patient, full of great loyalty and faithfulness… forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion” (Exodus 34:6-7). And Jesus (the supreme revelation of God) said that in him we see God’s heart most clearly (cf. John 14:9, Hebrews 13:8).1 What can help you trust in God’s goodness as Jesus revealed it to us?

Prayer

Loving God, you call me to be faithful. I really want to be. But I thank you that the psalmist wrote that you remember that we are just dust (Psalm 103:14). Thank you that I can trust your grace more than you can trust my faithfulness. Amen.

 

1 For a more complete study than space allows in the GPS, see Pastor Hamilton’s book Making Sense of the Bible, especially chapters 14-18 and 22.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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WEDNESDAY 09.21.16 – Leadership wisdom from Moses’ father-in-law

Daily Scripture: Exodus 18:1-5, 13-26

18:1 Jethro, Midian’s priest and Moses’ father-in-law, heard about everything that God had done for Moses and for God’s people Israel, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. 2 Moses’ father-in-law Jethro took with him Zipporah, Moses’ wife whom he had sent away, 3 along with her two sons. One was named Gershom because he said, “I have been an immigrant living in a foreign land.” 4 The other was named Eliezer because he said, “The God of my ancestors was my helper who rescued me from Pharaoh’s sword.” 5 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought Moses’ sons and wife back to him in the desert where he had set up camp at God’s mountain.

13 The next day Moses sat as a judge for the people, while the people stood around Moses from morning until evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What’s this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people are standing around you from morning until evening?”

15 Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When a conflict arises between them, they come to me and I judge between the two of them. I also teach them God’s regulations and instructions.”

17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing isn’t good. 18 You will end up totally wearing yourself out, both you and these people who are with you. The work is too difficult for you. You can’t do it alone. 19 Now listen to me and let me give you some advice. And may God be with you! Your role should be to represent the people before God. You should bring their disputes before God yourself. 20 Explain the regulations and instructions to them. Let them know the way they are supposed to go and the things they are supposed to do. 21 But you should also look among all the people for capable persons who respect God. They should be trustworthy and not corrupt. Set these persons over the people as officers of groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. 22 Let them sit as judges for the people at all times. They should bring every major dispute to you, but they should decide all of the minor cases themselves. This will be much easier for you, and they will share your load. 23 If you do this and God directs you, then you will be able to endure. And all these people will be able to go back to their homes much happier.”

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law’s suggestions and did everything that he had said. 25 Moses chose capable persons from all Israel and set them as leaders over the people, as officers over groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. 26 They acted as judges for the people at all times. They would refer the hard cases to Moses, but all of the minor cases they decided themselves.

Read other translations at Biblegateway.com or youversion.com.

Reflection Questions

Task: lead a throng of ex-slaves safely through the Sinai desert. They weren’t organized, and had just one clear leader. Their slave masters had run everything, so they hadn’t learned to work out even minor conflicts. Moses was trying to assess and fix every little problem the people had—until his father-in-law wisely told him, “What you are doing isn’t good.” Moses was astute enough to listen to his father-in-law. In doing so, he learned a lesson we all need to learn: he needed help. He couldn’t do everything himself.

  • Moses took his role as leader seriously, a good thing. “The people come to me to seek God’s will,” he said. But his father-in-law was God’s instrument to remind him that he wasn’t called to be a solo act, handling everything himself. What tasks do you carry solo right now, in any area of life? Look prayerfully at what parts of them you could share with others, even if at first it takes extra time to help others learn the task.
  • Exodus 2:16, 3:1 and 18:1 called Moses’ father-in-law “Midian’s priest.” Although we don’t know a lot about it, Midian’s religion probably differed from Israel’s. But this priest of Midian sheltered Moses, gave him his daughter in marriage, employed him for about 40 years, and now came to his camp and counseled him about how best to handle a demanding leadership task. Are you, like Moses, open to God’s wisdom even if it comes through a source you didn’t expect?

Prayer

Loving Lord, I need your help, and you often send that help through other people. So deliver me from the pride that tries to make me pretend I can always handle things entirely on my own. Amen.

 

Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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