October 31, 2021
Caleb's faith in God
After making it to the Promised Land, the spies who went into the promised land were scared to enter it, except for Joshua and Caleb, who had faith in God. Caleb spoke up to the naysayers first:
'But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” '
Caleb took God at His word and knew they would have the victory despite any appearance because they had God on their side. The Israelites did not believe him, and they continued their complaining and unbelief.
Here is how Joshua and Caleb responded:
'And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord . And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” '
In response, God said to Moses:
'But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it. '
It is later recorded:
'Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God. And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.” Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord, the God of Israel. Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba. (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim.) And the land had rest from war.'
Caleb had a different spirit. He believed the Lord. He wholly followed the Lord. He was bold. He spoke up. He stood up to those who rebelled against God. He desired to please God, and he knew that faith pleased God.
As a result, at 85, Caleb’s strength was as it had been at 40 when he was set to enter the promised land. Believing God still, Caleb led his descendents to receive their inheritance, driving the occupants of the land out.
Moses is described in a similar way, even at the end of his life:
'Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. '
A long life is a blessing from God, as Moses described:
'I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”'
Caleb chose life. God was his life and his length of days, and he and his offspring did dwell in the land of promise. Steadfast faith in God has always led to life by the design of God.
God’s people are to choose to believe God over what their eyes may see. They choose to believe the report of God over the report of man.
October 29, 2021
A psalm of Moses about God's salvation
'He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge — no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”'
Jewish tradition ascribes this psalm to Moses (yet complied by David). The devil saw fit to tempt Jesus with some of its text, according to Matthew 4:5-7. Jesus used the truth in God’s Word to respond to the devil: “it is written” (Matthew 4:4,7,10).
This psalm speaks of the protection and blessing of God for His people brought about by a relationship of trust in Him. The ever victorious God allows His people to abide with Him by faith, providing sanctuary. The fortress of the Most High, where His people may dwell in Him through trust, casts a large shadow.
Despite any appearance or situation that could cause fear, God desired for His people to remember His faithfulness, His provision, and His promise to shield, to deliver, and to bless those who follow Him.
“For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge — no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.”
They were delivered from that which would try to entrap. They were delivered from any deadly pestilence or plague. They were delivered from defeat in battle. They were delivered from all evil.
“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”
They were delivered by the Lord of Hosts who commanded unseen armies to guard them, keeping them from any harm.
“You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
God’s people were protected in the desert as they approached the promised land to lay hold of it. While in the will of God, they could tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing would hurt them (see Luke 10:19, Mark 16:18, Acts 28:3-5). For those with steadfast faith in the sovereign Lord and His word, in the Old Testament and the New, their tread was the march of the conqueror, their song the song of victory, their crown the crown of glory.
God desired for His people to know Him and to hold fast to Him in love, knowing His will and His promise to protect them, deliver them, rescue them, honor them. God promised those with steadfast faith in Him long life and satisfaction in Him. He promised to show them His salvation in the midst of any trouble. God wanted His people to know Him and believe in His word, His nature, and His ability, as He had already shown to them.
They were to believe the words of God over the words of man and what their eyes showed them. The arm of the Lord is revealed for those who believe the report of God (Isaiah 53:1 KJV) and know the authority of God and His word (Matthew 4:10-11). The God of Abraham, Israel, Moses, and David is never defeated, and His words always accomplish what God purposes, succeeding in the thing for which God sends it (Isaiah 55:11).
October 27, 2021
The Lord is holy
'And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God. Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the Lord your God... “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God. “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord . “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord... “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them: I am the Lord.”'
It is understood that three types of laws were given to the Jews in the Old Testament: moral laws, ceremonial laws, and civil laws. The Ten Commandments are an example of moral law, as are the laws in the selected passage from today.
God is holy and righteous, set apart and free from sin. God expected His people to trust Him in faith, know that He intends good for them because He is good, and follow His commands. Only faith in God leads to freedom and life and blessing.
In the legal system of God that every created being must abide by — and by which God functions, only those without sin (or rendered as though without sin) can have a close relationship with God. God is holy, and He pursues a close relationship with men and women, so He commands holiness. God does what is right, has allowed His people to know what is right, and expects His people to choose to do the right thing.
Consistently doing right follows from believing what is right, right thought patterns, speaking what is right, and, finally, choosing what is right. Steadfast faith results in right action.
For the Jews, doing right meant obeying the Ten Commandments and the other moral law to demonstrate their love for God and each other. It also meant treating others the way God wanted people treated, as they too were made in His image.
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner... You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind... When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt..."
God had a heart for those marginalized in Jewish society: the poor, the deaf, the blind, foreigners, the fatherless, and widows (see also Deuteronomy 26:12-13, Deuteronomy 27:19). The tithe was to go to them and also to the Levites, or the church staff of the time.
The Jews were to love both their neighbors and the marginalized, looking out for them. In short, they were commanded, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
Jesus interpreted this command in the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Two of the ways Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God are countercultural include welcoming the marginalized and denial of self-interest. Jesus is the "image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15) and "the exact imprint of His nature" (Hebrews 1:3).
As revealed through the moral law and through Jesus, God expects that His people will love everyone and care for everyone as He does love and care for them, and that they will do justly as representatives of Him. This is what the people functioning in God's image and likeness will do.
God expects His church to step outside of themselves, see others as He sees them, take responsibility for them, and love as He loves — unselfishly. God's law and God's ways do not allow for selfishness. Jesus commanded,
'But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. '
God is righteous, and His people are to seek righteousness— the rightness of God— for themselves and for others. They are to seek it, spirit, soul and body, in all things— in themselves, in their affairs, in their homes and churches, in their businesses, in their neighborhoods, in their cities and countries, to the ends of the earth. They are to hunger for, thirst for, and to expect the righteousness that only God is able to bring to all people and things (see also Matthew 5:6).
October 24, 2021
Moses' relationship with God
'Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent. Moses said to the Lord , “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord .’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. '
“The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.””
Exodus 34:6-7 ESV
Moses had changed a lot since the time God had called him at the burning bush (Exodus 3), where Moses had informed God in reply that people would not believe him or listen to his voice (Exodus 4:1); that he was “not eloquent,” being both “slow of speech and of tongue” (Exodus 4:10); and, finally, to “please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13).
In repeatedly choosing to obey God after this point, Moses had submitted himself fully to the Lord and made God’s will his own will, and so he came to have the type of relationship that God desires to have with men and women. The Lord spoke with Moses “face to face” as we speak to our friends. In Exodus 34:29-35, it is recorded that Moses’ face “shone because he had been talking with God.”
Moses asked God, “please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.” He also requested, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.” God granted this request, assuring Moses, “you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”
Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” God’s glory is the truth of His nature and also that nature reflected in mankind, who has been made just a little lower than God, able to commune with God.
In His close relationship with Moses, it pleased God to reveal Himself further to Moses, both in passing by him, although Moses could not see Him or he would die (Exodus 33:20-23), and speaking of His nature.
“The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…”
Here is the revealed nature, character, substance, and essence of the Spirit of God:
Abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Mercy is the action of a heart full of compassion. The grace of God is His beautiful, unwarranted giving, as revealed best in Jesus Christ, who was filled with all the fullness of God’s Spirit. Patience is in the character of God because He would clearly rather show mercy and forgiveness than judge. God is steadfast, a covenant keeping God of His word, faithful to His promises. Whatever God says is done.
The Spirit of the Lord was upon Moses (Numbers 11:17), so he had come to have this nature as well. Moses laid hands on his assistant, Joshua son of Nun, so he also became full of the spirit of wisdom (Deuteronomy 34:9), and he had this nature.
This is God’s glory: the nature of God revealed in Himself and in those made in His image and likeness. God desires to make manifest His mercy, grace, patience, abounding love and faithfulness, forgiveness, and justice.
Now is the time of the New Testament brought by the victory of Jesus Christ. According to Scripture, the world has been in the last days after Pentecost, where God poured out His Spirit on all flesh (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17), and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21).
This time of the New Covenant is much better than that of the old, i.e., the times of Moses where God was less accessible. God has made all people having steadfast faith in Jesus His channel of His grace and compassion.
A very close relationship with God is not unattainable. It’s God's will for His people, and God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34, KJV).
October 22, 2021
The last seven commandments
' “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. “You shall not murder. “You shall not commit adultery. “You shall not steal. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” '
The God who designed His people to love Him also commanded them to love and serve all others made in his image and likeness.
God created the parent-child relationship as an imperfect likeness of His relationship with His children. Both parent and child are made in God’s image, and the parents are to be honored. The parents take care of children when they are young, and children are to ensure parents are cared for when they are old enough to give care.
Jesus clearly honored His mother during His ministry. He also scorned the tradition of men in His time that justified them not giving honor to their parents:
' You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God) — then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” '
“You shall not murder.”
We are not to commit murder because humans are made in God’s image and likeness, giving them value close to that of God. Satan is a murderer (John 8:44), and we are to be like God, giving life in every way that we have been enabled to do so, not taking it.
Speaking first of murder, Jesus said further that we are not even to treat others with contempt with words we speak to them (Matthew 5:21-22). Hate or contempt of one’s fellow man does not permit one to also love God, the subject of the first three commandments, according to the Apostle John:
“If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
1 John 4:20-21 ESV
“You shall not commit adultery.”
God’s people are not to commit adultery. To do so is to make another person an object of lust, to lack satisfaction in God and His good gifts that come according to His plan and His ways. Jesus said to not even look at another person made in God’s image with lust:
' “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. '
Jesus spoke very seriously about getting rid of sin in one’s life, as it leads toward bondage, dissatisfaction, and death rather than the Life, freedom, and peace Jesus came to give. Jesus was righteous, victorious over all sin, despite having the common temptations of mankind. He was the model of One who knew God’s word, believed it to be true, and did what was right, despising evil.
An attitude of love toward others starts in one’s beliefs about who they are and who they could be, image bearers of God with potential to become like God in many ways. Jesus loved and loves every one.
“You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
According to the next two commandments, God’s people are not to steal nor give false testimony. We are to give, which is better than receiving, Jesus said (Acts 20:35). Life is not about getting good things for ourselves; we know that things don’t satisfy beyond some brief moments, and anyway God is the source of every good thing. God is generous in every way, and so ought we to be:
'He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. '
2 Corinthians 9:10-11
One's moral choices, stealing and lying included, lead one of two possible ways. It is Satan who is a thief (John 10:10) and a liar (John 8:44). Isn't it better then to always choose honesty and truth over dishonesty and lies? In this too, one chooses to enter through either the narrow gate, acting in obedience out of love in faith, or the wide gate and road that leads toward destruction:
' “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. '
It may not be intuitive that following God’s laws and ways in some choice (rather than our own way) leads to life, but that does not make it untrue. Mankind’s doubt of God’s goodness and good intention is the problem. The Bible teaches that things are not as they seem to be (Matthew 20:16, Hebrews 11:1-6); reality is different from what we perceive and come to learn through our five senses from the world we experience.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
The Israelites were not to envy. In a world where we are able to know more and more about the business of our “neighbors,” God’s people are still not to envy, coveting what others have. Envy is a trap, distracting us and dividing our attention. The wisdom of Solomon says the following:
'Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. '
Instead, God’s people are to be satisfied in God and His good gifts, expecting from Him what is needed and asking in faith for what they want, aligning their will with His will.
If wanting more is about pleasing somebody else, this too is problematic, as God’s people are to live in order to please Him. The Apostle Paul wrote about this:
'For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. '
Envy and people pleasing get in the way of loving our neighbors and being servants of all mankind, as Jesus called all believers to be, demonstrating it in His own life (e.g., John 13:1-17). We are designed as vessels for outflow, not just inflow. Even as with a body of water, those with no outflow become scummy. On the other hand, giving more and more of oneself is the way of growth and the way of God.
The Ten Commandments, part of God’s moral law to the Jews, are summed up as follows: "Love God. Love others." This is the law of Christ (Matthew 22:36-40).
Those who love God will follow the commandments of Christ. They will choose love of God and neighbor over self or any extension of self.
The following is true of followers of Jesus:
'There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. '
Our God is the God of freedom and Life.
October 20, 2021
The first three commandments
'Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” '
A priest was one that had special access to God to communicate between God and mankind. At the beginning, Adam and Eve already had better access than this. They had an intimate relationship with their Creator. To keep it as God desired it to be, they had to obey God’s command, believing Him and His blessings for them to be good— not holding anything back. God loved them greatly and made them as His glory, just a little lower than God.
We know they chose not to continue to believe God though, which changed everything for them.
Through Abraham and in Exodus, we see God made a way back toward the intended intimacy with His creation and toward the restoration of His channel of blessing for them.
God being righteous and having set up a legal system in His creation, He made a covenant that His people had to keep in faith. Part of God’s covenant was as follows:
' And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. '
These first three commandments show the ways that Israelites should show their love for their God who brought them out of Egypt, the one and only God. Their love for God was to come first, and they were to worship no one and nothing else.
Even as in the New Testament, love for and obedience to God are associated in these commandments (e.g., John 15:1-17). The motivation for the obedience of God’s people is to be love for God. In the New Testament, obedience of a Christ-follower leads them to become more and more like Jesus Christ, walking in His steps and doing God’s will as Jesus did.
According to the design of God, obedience to what He has commanded is always in the best interest of His people. Believing and obeying God in faith has been designed to be the way to life, freedom, and blessing. Jesus was also obedient to His Father (John 6:38).
Everyone worships because mankind has been made to worship; if we don't worship God, we will worship something else. We must choose the object or objects of our worship.
On a daily basis, what is the first thing on our thoughts? The last thing? What is it that we adore? Whom do we care about most? Whom are we living to please? What causes us fear? What do we prioritize in our spending? What’s the focus of our time, attention, and energy? What makes us excited? What brings us joy? What brings us hope? These questions can help us identify what we care about most.
God does not want His people to love His gifts more than Him, the Giver, including any person made in God’s likeness. Every good and perfect gift is from God (James 1:17).
God’s people are the creation and the glory of God, and God wants their love. Loving Him is the best thing for the people of God too — by His design. He is Life and freedom. Choices to not love God are choices leading toward death and increasing bondage, although it does not seem this way at the moment.
Jesus worshipped His father and taught His disciples to do the same. He said that loving God was the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-38).
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”
Transitioning to the second of the Ten Commandments, the names of God are wonderful, showing who He is and who He wants to be to His people. God’s people are to use these names in love and worship of God, and in conversation with God. God commands His people not to take His name in vain. God is patient with people, but He is no pushover.
In the New Testament, the use of the name of Jesus gives His followers access to His authority. For example, see Acts 3:6 where the Apostle Peter heals a lame man through use of the name of Jesus, who he calls the Author of Life (Acts 3:15). This same name that refers to the One who has authority over all of heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18) should never be used in a curse. Jesus is the compassion, generosity, grace, and righteousness of God personified.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
Referring to the third commandment, God told the Israelites to set apart time for God where they could rest, remembering their Creator: their Sabbath. God wanted His people to rest from their work and busyness and remember Him.
Constant busyness and distraction is not from God. God is characterized by peace, not distraction. In this world of ours, there are so many things that can take our attention from God and the ways of God; this is not from God. He does not distract us from His call for His people to love Him, love others, and go about doing His will.
Jesus called Himself the “Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:23-28), and Christians choose to keep the Sabbath in different ways. The Seventh Day Adventists are a denomination of Bible-believing Christians (i.e., those who believe the Bible is the word of God) who still keep it on the seventh day of the week, or Saturday. Many others choose to take Sunday as a day of rest. Still many others choose to seek God daily during a “quiet time.” “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).
Whatever our practice, God wants to be first on our thoughts, the main subject of our attention. We are called to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). He is to be daily the subject of our worship, praise and thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We are to be grateful for every good thing in our lives, as God is the source of all good. He is the source of everything we need and everything we should want, i.e., anything that is good for us and anything that brings glory to God.
God has created his people for a close relationship with Him, now brought near as a kingdom of priests through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Revelation 1:6). God loves us more than we can know, and we are to love Him.
We are created for and by a loving God, a God who defines love. We are created to love.
We also need to know the love of God. This is why the tenderness of Jesus Christ is so beautiful and so deeply attractive to the world.
October 17, 2021
“Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.” Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.”
Exodus 15:22-27 ESV
Immediately after heading into the wilderness, the faith of Israel was tested again, as they could find no water. Then the water they found was not drinkable.
Feeling desperate because of the people's response to hardship, Moses cried out to the Lord, just as he had when he needed deliverance from the Egyptian army at the Red Sea. God had answered Moses, “Why do you cry out to me?”
As when they were trapped by the Egyptians at the Red Sea, God, communicating through his Spirit, wanted Moses to take some action in faith. This time God showed Moses a log to use to take care of the need.
God can create from anything, as Jesus taught His disciples. God created more bread and fish from just a little, multiplying it (Luke 9:10-17). Sometimes Jesus used spit or spit and mud in His creative miracles (Mark 7:33, Mark 8:23, John 9:6).
Through Moses’ action, God transformed a log into a substance that made the water both potable and sweet to the taste for the Israelites to drink. Jehovah Jireh provided for Moses and Israel, just as He did for Abraham (Genesis 22:14)
To those who would do right, being obedient to the commandment of God, God introduced Himself as Jehovah Rapha, their healer: “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”
God had protected Israel from the plague on the firstborn because they obeyed His commandment given before Passover:
'Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it... It is the Lord ’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 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 no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. '
Israel was not without fault before God, but God allowed for the substitute of the blood of a lamb without blemish. Through this sacrifice, God’s people were considered as righteous, and they were protected from the plague that killed even Pharaoh’s firstborn son.
God redeemed Israel from disease on this occasion, and He promised to continue this if they would continue to be obedient. God would also prepare for even a greater redemption for more of God’s children through the Messiah, Jesus Christ (see Isaiah 53), the Lamb of God (John 1:29).
While remaining sinless seems impossible in our own power— even Moses did wrong (see Deuteronomy 32:51-52)— in the current times of the New Testament, putting faith in Jesus Christ makes a believer righteous, or as sinless. A genuine faith in Jesus makes one right before God (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is the position of every earnest follower of Jesus.
Steadfast faith opens up the channel of God to bless abundantly, even as He desires to do for all (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9).
At the end of today’s passage (v. 27), God does provide blessing to His people:
“Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.”
In difficult times and places, God wants His people to remember His provision, His goodness, His faithfulness, His steadfast love. They all flow from His divine nature.
The redemptive names of God, Jehovah Rapha included, convey what God wants to be to His people, His church. The fullness of redemption came two thousand years ago through the resurrected Jesus.
God is good, and His salvation (sozo) is complete. It is God’s will to make us whole.
October 15, 2021
God of freedom
“When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.” Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.”
Exodus 14:10-21 ESV
Although Moses initially had no faith in himself and his ability to lead, he came to have great faith in God. Here in the face of frightened people who thought God had led them all this way just to face death in the wilderness, Moses instructed his people not to fear, even as Jesus often did to his disciples. Moses told the Israelites to stand firm, confident they would see the salvation of the Lord, just as they had when they were freed from slavery in Egypt.
Moses expected God to fight for them, but this wasn’t God’s way: “Why do you cry to me?” Instead, God wanted Moses to be His channel, His agent, to lead His people. God wanted Moses to take action to access the power of God to bring the Israelites God’s salvation— all through his faith. Through faith, Moses was to instruct the people to go forward, expecting God to make a way for them, for this was God’s will—to bring them freedom, delivering them from their oppression. Moses was to lift his staff and stretch forth his hand, expecting the sea to be divided.
Moses acted upon God’s word, and God confirmed His word with the miraculous. Not only did nature become obedient to part the waters, showing God’s dominion, but the pillar of cloud went behind the people to protect them from the army, and God provided illumination. God redeemed His people through Moses’ faith and his union with God.
Moses immediately praised God for what He did:
'Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord , saying, “I will sing to the Lord , for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him... “Who is like you, O Lord , among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them. '
In Moses stretching out his hand, the Spirit of God had stretched out His right hand, and glorious triumph followed for God’s people. The Lord was Moses’ strength, awesome in power.
Moses praised God for the wonders He had just done. Thanks and praise is always supposed to be the attitude of believers. As Jesus brought Lazarus back to life, He showed a model of thanking God His Father for hearing Him even before the miraculous action of God had been seen, brought about by Jesus’ own action (John 11:41-44). Jesus also thanked God before He multiplied food for the masses in the hands of His disciples, showing Himself as the Lord who provides (John 6:11).
Moses and Jesus had the Spirit of God. In God, the unseen spiritual gives birth to that which is seen in the physical world; freedom and life come with it by the very nature of God. This is God’s way.
Do you need God to set you free? Do you want to join God in bringing freedom to others?
Now in times of the New Testament, brought about by the blood and body of Jesus Christ, complete freedom is part of a complete salvation and victory over evil. Jesus replaced mankind’s death sentence brought about by wrong choice with the ability to freely choose abundant Life (John 10:10).
Our God is a God who delights to bring freedom to those made in His image, His glory, and to use those made in His likeness in the process. This is His will.
October 13, 2021
The choices of Abraham
God made a promise to Abraham to give him a son:
“And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
Genesis 15:4-6 ESV
The account of the sacrifice of Issac, the son God had given Abraham, is given in Genesis 22. After Abraham chooses to obey God, God speaks:
“... “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.””
Genesis 22:16-18 ESV
Abraham was a man chosen by God based on his character, showing us what it is that pleases God.
It was Abraham’s faith. He chose to believe God at His word and act on it.
His faith was counted by God to him as righteousness. He was made right with God by believing God’ word and acting on it, even as his father Adam had not chosen to do.
This gave God the legal right to carry out His will for mankind: to bless Abraham and his descendants, through any legal means, and to cause them to possess the gate of their enemies. (There is clearly a legal system in the design of God wherein He chose to give choice to His creation.)
Being made righteous, they would have victory over the evil that had brought death upon mankind when Adam and Eve chose death over life.
This kind of faith in God which Abraham had was and still is the pathway back to life (zoe) and wholeness (shalom)— in all of its fullness and abundance, in relationship with the God who made mankind in His image and likeness.
It’s the faith in the Father God that Jesus modeled, taught, and retaught to his disciples— Jesus, the one from God who brought fulfillment to God’s promise to Abraham. Jesus brought the opportunity to be made righteous not only to Abraham’s direct descendants, but to all nations.
God, Jehovah Jireh (Genesis 22:14), provided a way. That way is faith in who God is and that His will for us is good. God is not a respecter of persons; He has always looked for faith.
Now in the times of the New Testament, that only way is faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ (John 14:6, Acts 4:12).
Mankind’s disobedience changed our relationship with God, but let’s not imagine that our Father desires to withhold any good thing from us, his children, created in His image and likeness as His glory.
God’s will is always to do good, to make things right for his children (Matthew 6:10, Acts 10:38, 1 John 3:8).
Let’s not wonder what God’s (general) will is. His nature has been made clear enough to us, and God doesn’t change (Numbers 23:19, Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17).
What will we choose to think about God? About His will?
What will we choose? God allowed us to choose.
There are so many choices.
Let’s choose God. Let’s believe God, putting our confidence in Him, His word, and His will to do good in cooperation with His church.
By way of Jesus’ resurrection and His commission of His disciples with His own authority through the baptism of God’s Spirit (Mark 16, Acts 2), the living Jesus made His church to be His body, the hope of the world.
The members of the church are the “offspring [who] shall possess the gate of [God’s] enemies, and in [Abraham’s] offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”
This was quite a promise, a promise of redemption, that God made to Abraham. God always keeps His promises.
God allows anyone to choose to be part of this promise. His good news is for anyone who has faith in Him and His word.
October 11, 2021
God created by His word
Rather than reflecting on Genesis 1-2, the Apostle Paul’s writing about it is considered:
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
Romans 1:19-20 ESV
Genesis 1-2 gives the account of creation in the Bible. There is much debate about it, and I would argue that Christians should think about creation— “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5)— but need not agree about the details of it, as the details of how God created life are not an essential of the Christian faith on which all must agree.
I would suggest the following: God has revealed truth both through nature and through Scripture, and no one should think one has a completely right understanding about either one— not scientists in regards to fully understanding truth from nature, and not Christians in regards to fully understanding truth from the Bible.
Humility is needed on all sides, as we all take ourselves and our ability to understand the truth too seriously. We are all wrong about certain things.
Personally, I am most intrigued by Hugh Ross’ view of a testable creation model that includes science and Scripture as sources of truth (as discussed in More Than a Theory: Revealing a Testable Model for Creation), allowing for the possibility that he could change his theory in the future based on new discoveries. Is he right? Certainly not fully. May he be far off? Quite possibly.
But it makes a lot of sense that God speaks both through Scripture and through nature, another source of God’s revelation (Romans 1:19-20), and one should expect the sources of truth to make sense together.
We have nothing to fear from the discoveries of science, as they should teach us more about the creation when rightly interpreted.
“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14:19). It is more important that the body of Christ can be unified (see also John 17:21-23, Ephesians 4:2-6,13-16,32) than that we all agree about how God did the creating. The details not yet clear to us are God’s business.
This doesn’t change the fact that God spoke this world and all life into existence, and He created mankind for a special relationship with himself.
We have come to know enough. What will we do with what we know?
October 10, 2021
In God’s image, after His likeness
'Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” '
What a statement and what good news-- mankind made in the image and likeness of God, the glory of God's amazing work, created for dominion over the rest of creation.
Do we see ourselves this way? Do you see everyone else this way? Everyone?
How do we understand God's image? What is His likeness?
God can choose. He creates.
God is compassionate, putting love into action. He is by nature generous in every way.
God delights to show mercy. He’s forgiving.
God loves justice. He has a heart for the least of these. He is not a respecter of persons.
The Spirit of God as shown in Jesus Christ is Life. Having dominion over everything in heaven and on earth, he makes things on earth right as they are in heaven. He is righteous.
Do you see yourself made in the image of God? In God’s likeness? The way you see yourself and what you believe about yourself has a huge impact.
God delights in you as the glory of His creation.
Do you see others this way? Everyone? The way God sees them? Loves them?
He made us able to choose... able to create.
We can choose to put love into action— to be compassionate.
We can choose to be generous, not just with our money, but in any way we discover that we may give.
We can choose to show mercy, to always forgive.
We can choose to do justly. We can love and care for the least of these, choosing to see them the way we know God sees them.
We can choose to join God in giving life and in making wrong things right.