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Even When We Are Unlovable

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XToday’s Bible reading: Exodus 15:1719-27, 16, 17:1-7 Matthew 22:1-3; Psalms 27:1-6; Proverbs 6:20-26

We meet Miriam today. She is introduced as Aaron’s sister and is therefore Moses’s sister as well. From later readings we will see that Moses had only one sister so it must have been Miriam that placed baby Moses in the basket and floated him down the Nile. Isn’t that interesting? God has reunited these siblings after Moses had been given up by his parents to spare his life. Miriam is a prophetess. Unfortunately later on she will misuse her gifts in a power-grab against Moses. As we read the Bible this year we are constantly seeing that no one in Scripture is perfect (other than Jesus) yet God uses, and loves, every single human being. The Bible is without a doubt the most open and honest of all the books that claim to be inspired. To me, that contributes to its validity.

Notice the lyrics to the song that Miriam sings offer praise to God for what He has done. Credit is not given to Moses as their leader. The work was all done by God. I think there are two lessons here. The first is that God gets all the glory and credit. We do not deserve to be exalted or praised.  We are to be humble. This is not to say that we should look down on ourselves or others as rotten and worthless. That is not humility. That is self-loathing which is not taught in the Bible. The other lesson I learn from this that as a leader I should not expect praise from others. Whatever leading I do is through the power and wisdom of God. I should lead for the sake of benefitting others, not for the sake of receiving praise and boosting my own ego.

I find it almost laughable that shortly after the people were praising God through this song they were complaining again (Exodus 15:24) because they didn’t have any water. At the beginning of Exodus 16 they complain once more about not having any meat. Obviously food and water are important needs but did they really doubt God at this point after all He had shown them (see also Exodus 17:7)? But I have to ask myself if I would have behaved any differently. God has shown me great things yet I still sometimes wonder if He is watching over me.

Here the people also twisted their memories and have duped themselves into believing that being slaves in Egypt was better than their present or future. They seem to forget that they were complaining in Egypt too. Doesn’t that sound like all of us? A couple of weeks ago it was unseasonably cold where I live. A few of us in my office were mildly complaining about the weather. Yet in a few months it will be over 100° F here and we’ll be complaining about the heat.

In response to the people God miraculously provides food for them. At evening He provided quail. In the mornings He provided manna. God will often provide blessings in unexpected ways. I think He does this so we atribute the blessing came from Him rather than to another person or even “fate”. Notice that even though God provided the manna the people still had to go out and collect it. We are not to be lazy and expect God to bless us while we sit around and do nothing. Just like God commanded the people to “Get up and move” yesterday, He commands us today to take responsibility.  Though the people were complaining, God loved them and provided for them. Even we are unlovable, He loves us.

I think Exodus 15:21 is important. Each family (“man” in some translations) gathered “according to its need”. We are responsible for ourselves. Although we can certainly help others and ask for help from others when we need it, we are ultimately the ones responsible for our own lives. Not our parents. Not our employer. Not our government. Sadly I think we’ve become a nation of lazy whiners who expect to be taken care of without having to take any responsibility for ourselves. We look to others, who by the way can’t adequately take care of themselves either, to supply our needs and take of us when the only One who can provide exactly what we need is God Himself.

Jesus tells the parable of a king’s wedding feast today. The king prepared the banquet and sent messengers to gather the invited guests. But the guest didn’t want to come. The king does this a couple of times while the people ignore his invitation and “went their own way”. Some of the messengers were insulted and even killed. This is pretty easy to understand. God is preparing a kingdom in heaven as we speak (we know this from other Bible passages we’ll cover this year) and has invited everyone to live there. But some people are ignoring Him, being more concerned about other things. Some of the guests even insult the messengers even though they (the messengers) are bringing some great news that should have been received with enthusiasm. How true that is today. Those of us who try to tell people of God’s great love for them are often ridiculed (even by members of our own family) or even killed – there are many places today where people are killed for their belief in Jesus.

The conspiracy against Jesus grows larger in Matthew 22:16. At first it was just the Pharisees. Then it was the Pharisee and Sadducees. Now the Romans are included (“supporters of Herod”). In this passage they are trying to trap Jesus into saying something against Rome or for Rome. If He says something against Rome the Romans will not be happy. If He says something for Rome the Jews will not be happy. It seems that they have Him cornered. Notice that they start of with flattery. Won’t work. Jesus is God so He already knows what their motives are. In the end Jesus gives a perfect answer to their question that neither the Jews or Romans can find fault with Him. Back to the drawing board for the Pharisees!

Later that same day (Jesus certainly had tremendous patience) the Sadducees try to trap Jesus. The Sadducees didn’t believe in angels or the after-life. They also only recognized the first five books of the Old Testament. They propose a “what if” scenario to Jesus about marriage and life after death (which they didn’t believe in). But Jesus points out that their understanding is tremendously flawed and while doing so even confirms that there are angels in heaven (Matthew 22:30) and confirming that there is life after death (Matthew 22:31).

Even today we need to be careful of those who think they “know” about God and the Bible but who don’t. The Bible teaches that there will be many false teachers. How do we know who is right and who is not? By reading and studying the Bible for ourselves. Verify everything someone tells you against God’s word to know if it is true or not. We also need to be ready to correct people when they are wrong. This should be done in a gentle and loving way, without arrogance or disdain for anyone. If someone gets mad at us for speaking the truth, that is their choice. We are all responsible for our own emotions. But we are not to prod anyone to anger in any way.

No matter what happens in life those of us who have salvation through Christ should not be afraid (Psalm 27:1). God will protect us from those who seek to destroy us. This doesn’t mean that we will never suffer any mental or physical harm. But God’s got our back. Whether your enemy is a person, or an addiction or whatever… we are to remain confident because God can overcome all our difficulties.

Proverbs 6 tells us that instruction from our parents is a light (verse 23). We should take their advice (and the advice of all who have more experience that we do) to heart so that where ever we go their wisdom will be in our minds. I think that we can also learn from these verses that as parents we need to be willing to share our experiences with the younger generation. We need to be open about mistakes we’ve made and how we learned from them so that our children won’t repeat them.

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