Exodus 17:8-16, 18, 19:1-15
Israel faces their first attack today in Exodus 17. These attacks have continued to this day with the recent bombings of cities in Israel by Hamas. This first battle is an unprovoked attack by the Amalekites. The Amalekites were descendants of Esau (Genesis 36:12), Jacob’s brother, so here we see that the effects of the dysfunction in Isaac’s family have carried on for generations. The Amalekites almost certainly knew about God’s promise to give the land of Canaan to Isaac’s descendants and perhaps here they are trying to prevent it from happening. But nothing can stop God’s promise to the Israelites or to you. If you are a true believer God has made a promise to you, He will keep it even when others try to stop it. God has promised you abundant life but He will allow trouble to come into your life as a means to 1) test you 2) grow you. There will always be people in your life who are trying to keep you from receiving God’s blessing.
We also meet Joshua today for the first time. Joshua will eventually succeed Moses, but we’ll see that when we get to the end of Exodus. Here he is tapped by Moses to lead “some” of the male Israelites in battle. Moses must have had tremendous confidence in Joshua as none of the Israelites had ever fought before. These people had spent all their lives as slaves in Egypt so there was nobody with any military experience. There must have been something about Joshua that suggested to Moses that he would be a leader.
The battle was won in the most unusual way. As long as Moses held his hands in the air, the Israelites had the advantage. If Moses dropped his arms the Amalekites had the advantage. This was to demonstrate their dependence on God for victory. God is always willing to fight on our behalf. But if we attempt to fight our battles ourselves we will fail because we will get in God’s way. God can’t help us if we are trying to do things in our own strength. This is the first of many victories the Israelites will win in a supernatural way.
In Exodus 17:14 we read that God promises to erase the memory of the Amalek people from under heaven. Sure enough, this has come true (have you ever studied the Amaleks in school?). In verse 16 we read that God was at war with them because they raised their fist against the Lord. They were defiant and refused to recognize God as God. This same principle is at work today and I think helps explain why God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God wants everyone to come to Him in total surrender. But there are many people who will not do that including some who are defiant and actively protest against God and His very existence. Those people who do that are doomed because God will fight for Himself against them. And, let’s be honest, God will not be defeated.
Throughout our Bible reading this year we have seen parents give their children meaningful names. I haven’t mentioned this until now but for some reason it stuck me today (Exodus 18:4) how cool that is. I wish we did this today. I think a child who grows up with a name that signifies an event in his parent’s lives would be more respectful of his parents and have more confidence in himself and God.
Moses’s father-in-law does a couple of cool things in our reading today. First he praises God and gives Him all the credit for rescuing the Israelites from the Egyptians (Exodus 18:10). He also gives Moses some great advice about delegating his responsibilities to other, capable, men. (Exodus 18:18). Moses was the leader of the entire group of Israelites (over 2 million) and did not have the time to broker small issues. He needed to keep his time free for more important matters. This would also allow others to develop leadership skills. This is an important lesson for any of us who are leaders today or who want to be leaders. We can’t do everything ourselves. As we gain more responsibility we need to remove ourselves from less important matters and leave those decisions to others so that we use our time more wisely.
Its interesting that Moses is quite old at this point (over 80) but is still learning new skills. He is learning to be a leader. This is very cool. It tells me that we can learn at any age and that God will never stop teaching us and growing us. It also tells me that God chose Moses not because of skills he already had but for other reasons. God chose Moses because Moses was available and dedicated to doing God’s work. If someone doesn’t know God and love God then God can’t use that person. But if someone is already walking with God then God can use that person even though they may not be (and most likely will not be) an expert in what God is asking them to do. But know this… by the time God gets through with them they will be.
At the beginning of Exodus 19 God tells Moses that He intends to make a special convenant (agreement; contract) with Israel. He intends to make Israel a special nation on earth, separated for His purposes. The people agree and promise to do “everything the Lord has commanded” (Exodus 19:8). We’ll see the rest of this play out tomorrow.
Matthew 22:34-46, 23:1-12
Once again the Pharisees try to trap Jesus today. They just don’t give up. They want to know which commandment is the most important. Jesus responds by saying that all righteousness hinges on two commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself”. It is not enough to just say we love God. We need to demonstrate that we love God by showing His love to the people around us. And it is not enough to simply do good for others without having a love for God at the same time. They both go together. If we love God we will want to serve others in an unselfish manner. But those living without God, who do good things for others, are simply trying to exalt themselves.
At this point Jesus has pretty much silenced His critics (Matthew 22:46) so He asks them a question: if the Messiah of the Old Testament was to come from the line of David (i.e. be a physical descendant of David) then why did David ascribe deity to the Messiah. But since the religious leaders did not understand their Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament) as much as they thought they did, they could not answer Him. They did not realize that the Messiah would be God coming down from heaven in the physical body (descended from David) of a human being. Even today there are many denominations that claim to know the Bible but which teach very false teachings. Just this past week I was searching the web on some topic of the Bible and came across a website for a Catholic diocese somewhere in the United States that definitively stated that people go to heaven based on how “good” of a life they lead on earth. These people are the modern-day equivalent of the religious teachers of Jesus’ day – those who claim to know the Bible and who are respected by the populace for allegedly knowing the Bible. But they don’t know it, just like the Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t know the Bible 2,000 years ago. We need to be very careful who we listen to when it comes to godly matters. The Bible is the only authoritative source. If anyone (including me) tells you something that does not line up with God’s official word (the Bible) then that person is wrong.
Jesus then turns to the crowds who were watching this confrontation – those people who had been raised to respect and believe these religious leaders – and tells them to respect their authority, but do not believe what they are teaching. We are also not to exalt any human being with titles such as “Father” or “Rabbi” because these diminish the fact that God is our Father and God is our Teacher (Matthew 23:3-8)
Dire warnings from Jesus wrap up today’s New Testament reading. Those who exalt themselves on earth will find themselves being humbled by their place in eternity (hint: it won’t be heaven). But those who humble themselves on earth will receive a place of honor in heaven.
David pleads with God to come to his aid and to answer his prayer in Psalm 27 today. I really like verse 8, which states that God wants us to seek Him. I like the NLT translation: “Come and talk with me”. This is really what God wants. He wants us to talk with Him. Prayer is simply talking with God. It is not just asking for things from God. It is having a conversation with Him. I can tell you from my own experience that God is a great conversationalist. He has a sense of humor. He gives perfect advice. He cares about your dreams and your hurts. And best of all, He is available 24/7. Remember that prayer is not a one way street. We have to listen as well as speak. I like the saying that says we have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally. I think that is especially true when praying. When we talk we are simply stating what we already now. When we listen we learn something we didn’t know. God wants us to listen to him. We can’t do that if we are doing all the talking.
We see today that adultery has devastating consequences. Whereas a starving man might be given some grace for stealing food, an adulterous man will find no such sympathy. Adultery is like playing with fire (verse 1). The adulterer(s) will get burned.Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.