Exodus 33, Proverbs 9, Psalm 81

Today’s readings are Exodus 33, Proverbs 9, and Psalm 81.

This devotional is about Exodus 33.

There are frustrations that come with every responsibility in life–every job, every volunteer position, every relationship. One of the most frustrating things is not having what you need to do the job. If your job is to repair cars but the tools you use keep breaking or getting stolen, you’ll be frustrated.

Moses had one of the toughest jobs anyone ever had. God called him to it, so he couldn’t quit or evade responsibility. There were, by some estimates, millions of people looking to him for leadership, but many of them were complainers and others were uncooperative and disobedient.

In Exodus 32, Moses lost his cool and threw a fit when the Israelites worshipped the golden calf. Now, here in Exodus 33, God told Moses that he was on his own. Verses 1-3 say, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised…. I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites…. But I will not go with you….” All of a sudden, Moses no longer had what he needed to do the job God called him to do. In verse 12, Moses explained his frustration to the Lord: “Moses said to the Lord, ‘You have been telling me, “Lead these people,” but you have not let me know whom you will send with me.’” What Moses said here was not really true. In verse 2 he said, “I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.” Later, in verses 15-16, Moses stated the true source of his frustration: “Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

So, God had promised the angel’s power to clear the Promised Land in verse 2 but Moses petitioned God not to send them to the Promised Land under that plan (v. 15). But why not? If God promised that the angel would go before them and win the battles for them, wouldn’t that be enough to do what God had told him to do?

Yes, of course it would be enough to complete the basic task but it would not be enough to build a godly nation. What Moses wanted for himself and for God’s people Israel was to walk with God: “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people” (v. 13). That statement was pleasing to God because verse 14 says, “The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’”

Greater than the promises of land and protection and provision, what Moses wanted was God’s presence. He wanted to know God and to be discipled in godliness by God himself. As the leader of God’s people, he had hard responsibilities to fulfill and needed the most powerful tool–God himself–to accomplish it. But what he wanted from serving God was not influence or authority or recognition. He wanted to know God himself: “teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you” (v. 13).

Don’t crave the benefits God provides more than God himself.

Exodus 29, Proverbs 5, Psalm 77

Today’s readings are Exodus 29, Proverbs 5, and Psalm 77.

This devotional is about Psalm 77.

Sleepless nights are a fact of life for most adults. Some have them frequently, others rarely, but all of have times when we are too worried or wounded or whatever to sleep. The songwriter here in Psalm 77 described one of those times in the opening stanzas of this song. Verse 2 says, “at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted” while verse 4 says, “You kept my eyes from closing.”

God’s word has taught us believers to seek the Lord in those moments when we can’t sleep and the Psalmist did that in this song (vv. 1-3a). When he ran out of ways to ask for God’s help, he turned his mind to the ways God had revealed his power in the past. Verse 5 says, “I thought about the former days, the years of long ago, and verse 10 says, “Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.’” Which miracles, you ask? Verses 15-20 describe the miracles God used to deliver Israel from the Egyptians through Moses and Aaron. When. this songwriter lived, those miracles had happened hundreds of years before. They were not memories he conjured up from his personal experiences in the past; they were acts of God that he had read about in the books of the Law and heard taught in the tabernacle. Recalling these gracious works of God historically gave Asaph confidence to trust God for his need. In verse 13, the author wrote, “Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” Notice that all these verbs are in the present tense–you are holy, you are the God who performs miracles, etc. Because God had worked the past, the author was confident he would work in this situation.

When you can’t sleep at night, cry out to the Lord for help, then think about all he has done in the past that is recorded in the scriptures. Let their words give you confidence in God’s power for your life.

Exodus 13, Job 31, Psalm 61

Today’s readings are Exodus 13, Job 31, and Psalm 61.

This devotional is about Exodus 13:19: “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.’”

Around 400 years passed between the death of Joseph and the birth of Moses. Joseph was certainly known among the Jewish people of Moses’s time; he was the father of two of the tribes of Israel, after all. But he was far from the forefront of anyone’s mind by the time the events of Exodus 13 happened.

All the best events of Joseph’s adult life happened in Egypt. In Egypt, he was wealthy and powerful. He was revered for saving the people from starvation even though his policies reduced them to slavery (Gen 47:21). Given all of this, it would be hard for anyone to criticize Joseph for not thinking of himself as an Egyptian. But 13:19 tells us that Joseph never gave up his Jewish heritage or hope. The fact that he commanded his descendants to dig up his bones and carry them to the Promised Land for burial shows you where his heart was. Joseph fully believed in the promises God had made to his family as this symbolic act demonstrated. Hebrews 11:22 referred to this verse and told us that Joseph’s instructions were an act of faith. Although God’s promises would be realized outside of his lifetime, Joseph believed firmly that they would happen.

In a sense, this happens to every believer in Christ when we die. Our hope is not just that we will live in heaven after death. Our hope is that all of God’s promises in Christ to us will be kept, including the resurrection he promised. We may not live to see the day that Christ returns but we will be raised again to reign with him if our hope and faith are truly in Jesus Christ.

Exodus 12:22-51, Job 30, Psalm 60

Today’s readings are Exodus 12:22-51, Job 30, and Psalm 60.

This devotional is about Psalm 60.

We all experience low moments in life. Things that we expect to go well sometimes go very badly. Sometimes it seems like God’s promises don’t become true in real life. That’s how David was feeling here in Psalm 60. Verses 1-3 especially lay out his complaint against God.

When life does not go as expected, especially if we expect God’s favor and don’t receive it in the way we expected, disappointment can sometimes tempt us to move to unbelief. Problems like these can repel people from God. David, however, did not lose faith in God. He called on God, instead, to help him (vv. 5-12). The reason is that he knew there was no other help available to him (vv. 9-10). Though he may have felt rejected by God, he believed that there was no one but God who could save him. So he increased his prayers and restated his reliance on God.

Do problems and disappointments in your life pull you closer to God or further away from him? One of several problems of pulling away from God is that there really is nowhere else to go. Walking away from God’s love and opening yourself to disobedience will not give you the success or the comfort you seek. It is better to receive the harder moments of life as trials to strengthen your faith than to interpret them as God’s absolute rejection and displeasure. When we see these times as trials God sends to strengthen our faith, it will pull us closer to him by faith.

Exodus 4, Job 21, Psalm 52

Today’s readings are Exodus 4, Job 21, and Psalm 52.

This devotional is about Exodus 4.

Moses made every excuse he could think of for not obeying God and God answered every one of them. God’s answers were gracious, too, promising his presence with Moses always and giving him some incredible miracles to authenticate his claim that God had sent him.

When every objection was answered and everything Moses needed for success had been promised or provided, Moses finally spat out these words, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else” (v. 13). In other words, Moses just did not want to do it. Every reason he gave God was an excuse; not one of them was a legitimate reason why Moses couldn’t do what he was commanded to do.

God’s response was anger: “Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses…” (v. 14). His anger was not that Moses was reluctant or afraid; his anger was over Moses’s stubborn unbelief and disobedience. What God called Moses to do was difficult. It would be scary and unpleasant so it is not really surprising that Moses didn’t want to do it.

But, with God, everything Moses was supposed to do would succeed. In the process of obeying the Lord, Moses would see the Lord and know him like nobody else who has ever lived. The work would be hard on Moses but the results would be more than worth it.

We often respond the same way to the Lord, don’t we? We hear his command to make disciples and his promise that he would be with us to the very end of the age, yet we don’t speak up when opportunities arise. We don’t even want to invite someone to church. One reason your spiritual life may be stagnating is that you are making excuses and hoping that God will just send someone else.

God eventually persuaded Moses to follow him and, if you and I are genuine Christians, he’ll get to us as well. Instead of resisting the Lord’s will in areas where we don’t want to change, let’s learn from Moses by believing God’s promises and acting obediently now rather than later.

Like Moses would learn later, the challenges of discipleship also provide us with greater opportunities to know God and see him work directly through our lives. Isn’t that better than leading sheep out in the desert?

Genesis 46, Job 12, Psalm 44

Today’s readings are Genesis 46, Job 12, and Psalm 44.

This devotional is about Psalm 44.

The “sons of Korah” who wrote this song were servants in the temple. That’s all we know about them. David was the beginning of music and lyrics in tabernacle/temple worship, so they followed him, but we don’t know how closely or how many years removed they were from David’s life and leadership of Israel.

We do know, however, that whoever wrote this song was longing for God to work in Israel. Verses 1-3 describe generally the work of God for Israel by bringing them military victory. This refers to conquest of Joshua, some of the victories of the Judges, and Saul and David’s victories. Because these men trusted God, God faithfully used them to win. But those “wins” came from God, as we read in verse 3: “It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.” God’s work in those victories was a display of his power and love on behalf of his people.

The Psalmist wants that to happen again. Verses 4-8 draw parallels to the men God used in the past. They trusted in God and so did the writer (vv. 4, 6). They glorified God for their wins (v. 1) and so did the author of this Psalm (v. 8). But the results were not the same. Although the Psalmist had experienced some victories from the Lord (vv. 5, 7), he had recently witnessed some severe defeats (vv.9-16).

The simplistic answer for these defeats would be that God is punishing Israel for her sins. (This is the same viewpoint that Job’s friends had, incidentally.) But in verses 17-18, the Psalmist denied straying from God. Yet the defeats came and continued (v. 19). God knew their hearts (vv. 20-22), so the author was confident that it was not a sin punishment that was causing these losses. In verses 23-26, then, he concluded his song in faith. He was not content to think, “Well, God provided for our ancestors but he’s not doing that any more for us.” Instead, he calls out the Lord. You made a promise to us, Lord (v. 26b: “unfailing love”), so show up and display your power for our blessing once again.

There is, sometimes, a tendency to think that God won’t do today the things he did in the past. God isn’t saving people in our land anymore or he isn’t building great, strong churches. We just have to be content, one might think with little candles of hope today, not the great roaring flame of God’s power.

Have you ever thought this way?

Well…, has Jesus’s promise, “I am with you to the very end of the age” been rescinded? Is it no longer true that “All power has been given, in heaven and on earth” to him? Of course not! So, when we read of God’s power, his provision, his salvation and his work in the past, our response shouldn’t be, “Too bad he’s not doing that anymore.” Instead, it should be, be faithful God and do it again!

Let’s pray that way today over anything that you are concerned or discouraged about. God’s power isn’t for the past; it is here for every age and every believer who calls to him in faith for it.

Genesis 44, Job 10, Psalm 42

Today we’re reading Genesis 44, Job 10, and Psalm 42.

This devotional is about Psalm 42.

The term “self-talk” is a phrase from modern psychology that refers to how we think about ourselves and interpret the events that happen us. A person may be very attractive to others physically, but his or her self-talk might be, “I’m ugly, no one will ever love me.” That kind of self-talk dramatically shapes a person’s confidence and the choices that person makes. It is a defeating-kind of self-talk that many people practice.

Self-talk also can refer to instructions your conscious self gives to the rest of you, particularly your emotions. If you are sad and you tell yourself all the reasons why you should be happy, that is positive self-talk.

Here in Psalm 42 the Sons of Korah gave us an emotional song. Verses 1-2 describe a strong, sincere desire to see God but verse 4 indicates that this person could no longer experience God’s revelation of himself in the temple (…how I used to go…) any longer.

That was depressing to the author of this letter, so he used “self-talk” to refocus his mind on God. Note the self talk in these words, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” Similar examples of God’s self-talk are 5b, 6, 11. The author here coached himself about what to do in his moments of despair: he instructs himself (to himself) by saying, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” In other words, he commanded himself to think differently–bibilically–about his life and act according to that command.

What is your self-talk like? Have you learned how to encourage yourself biblically to do the right thing, even when your desire to do it isn’t there? Use the pattern in this Psalm and pay attention to what your brain is telling you. Teach yourself to remind yourself of Christ’s promises. Good self-talk is a great way to internalize scripture passages so that you can act freely and learn how to glorify God with your life.

Genesis 42, Job 8, Psalm 40

Today’s readings are Genesis 42, Job 8, and Psalm 40.

This devotional is about Job 8:1-7

Sometimes people have a simplistic view of God and his work for us. Job’s friend Bildad the Shuhite here in Job 8 is one example. Bildad’s thought was that Job was full of hot air when he claimed not to deserve his suffering (v. 1). Since God is just, he thought, then Job’s children must have sinned. Therefore, in their death, they got what they deserved (vv. 3-4), according to Bildad.

On the other hand, Bildad thought that, if Job just repented and sought the Lord, God will give him everything back that he lost and then some: “But if you will seek God earnestly and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your prosperous state. Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.”

This shows that the Prosperity Gospel is a very old heresy. It sounds so simple and so good: Bad things happen to sinful people but God blesses the repentant and upright. Claim the truth that “Christ died for our flu according to the scriptures” and you’ll get better immediately. Seek God now, Job, and all your kids will come back to life. That’s Bildad’s simplistic understanding of God.

Job was written, in part, to cure us of this nonsense. Scripturally, God does promise blessings for obedience and punishment for disobedience. The problem is that, in this life, “blessings” are not primarily material goods or physical health. Those blessings will be fully realized in God’s kingdom but, until that kingdom exists on earth, people on earth–even believers–will still have to struggle with financial issues, sickness and death, and other human problems. God allows many kinds of sufferings in our lives to test our faith, deepen our faith, and purity our faith. Job received this testing, not for unconfessed sin, but for the glory of God so that his power would be demonstrated through Job’s faith.

It’s not wrong to desire health but it is wrong to suggest that someone’s spiritual life is damaged because they are sick or suffering. The thing that someone condemns someone else over might be the very thing God is using powerfully in their lives for his glory. So don’t impose on God simplistic, false human notions about God and his blessings. Instead, trust God in your suffering and let him testify to his own greatness through your faith as he faithfully carries you through the trials of life.

Genesis 33, Esther 9-10, Psalm 32

Today’s Bible readings are Genesis 33, Esther 9-10, and Psalm 32.

This devotional is about Esther 9-10.

There are good, godly men who don’t believe that God cares about Israel as a nation any longer. They believe that God’s promises to Israel have been fulfilled in Christ and in the church. The Jews that exist today, then, are just like any other race of people on earth. There are some who are elect and will trust Christ by faith to become part of the church just as in every other nation. But, to those who believe that the church has replaced Israel, there is nothing special about national Israel.

I do not believe that.

I believe that God’s covenant with Abraham remains and that there are promises he made to Israel that have yet to be fulfilled. Those promises will be fulfilled by Christ and, when they are, then Christians and Jewish believers will be united as one people of God in eternity.

One reason I believe this is why Jewish people still exist with their ethnic identity in tact. Throughout human history, there have ben repeated efforts to extinguish their existence. You are aware of Hitler’s attempts to destroy the Jews and that they have enemies today, such as the PLO, who want to wipe them out as well. But these modern threats are only the latest. Here in Esther, we’ve been reading about how Haman wanted to eradicate the Jews from the earth. Yet, in God’s sovereign will, he placed Mordecai and Esther in Xerxes’s palace to thwart Haman’s genocidal intentions.

What’s so interesting about the book of Esther is that God’s name is not mentioned at all, not once in any form. And, Esther became queen through immorality (chapter 2) and neither she nor Mordecai are portrayed as believers in YHWH or adherents to Judaism as a faith. The closest reference we see in Esther to God or faith in him is when Esther asked the Jews in Susa to “fast for me” and said “I and my attendants will fast as you do” (Esther 4:15-16). That’s it! She doesn’t even mention prayer with this fasting; just the fasting.

It may be true (it likely is, actually) that Esther and Mordecai were believers. But the author of Esther does not say so or detail for us what their walk with God was like. The purpose of the book of Esther is not to laud these two people for their faith, but to show how God was faithful to his covenant regardless of whether any of the Jews were faithful to him. This book also shows us how God works sovereignly. There is not one miracle described in the book nor is there any divine revelation to help out the main characters. In the book of Esther, people acted rationally, with intention and in fear at times without any divine intervention or even any overt acknowledgement on God. And yet, God still worked in their everyday lives to save his people from being extinguished. God may not be mentioned directly in the book of Esther, but his faithfulness to his covenant and his care for his people are demonstrated on every page.

Israel today lives in unbelief. There are Jews, of course, who have embraced Christ as Messiah and become Christians like we are. But the nation we call Israel was politically created and is one of the most progressive (in the moral sense; in other words, “liberal”) nations on earth. Yet just as God protected and cared for his people in Esther, regardless of their faith or lack of faith, he is preserving his people and watching over them. There will come a day when they will turn to Christ in faith (see Romans 11 and most of the book of Revelation). Those Jews who die before that day will perish in hell just like any other person who does not submit to Christ in faith. But God is faithful and will make good on his promises to Abraham, David, and others.

For us, the lesson of Esther is to trust God. Things around us may look good at times; at other times, they may look bleak. God has ways of accomplishing his will even through unbelievers and he will do it. So hope and trust in him, not in people, governments, programs, or anything else.

Genesis 32, Esther 7, Psalm 31

Today we’re reading Genesis 32, Esther 8, Psalm 31.

This devotional is about Psalm 31.

During the Gulf War (the one in the early 1990s), U.S. Army General Norman Schwarzkopf held a famous press conference that made him into a celebrity. In that press conference, he showed a video of a car in Iraq crossing a bridge. Shortly after the car crossed the bridge, the bridge exploded from a bomb that U.S. forces dropped on it. Schwarzkopf referred to the driver of this car as “The luckiest man in Iraq” because he narrowly escaped a death he had no idea was coming.

If luck were real, David would be one of the luckiest men who has ever lived. He escaped death time and again–both in general when he went to battle and specifically when he was targeted by Saul and others. Here in Psalm 31 (as in other Psalms), we see past the brave warrior into the heart of this king. The dangers he faced were as stressful to him as they would be to any one of us (vv. 9-10). He dealt with these stresses by turning to God in prayer, pouring his heart out honestly to the almighty about his fears and pleading with God to be his “rock of refuge” his “strong fortress” (v. 2) and to deliver him (v. 1).

Because of the covenant God had made with David, God did deliver him over and over again. Although he was a skilled, prepared warrior, David’s success in battle and his longevity in life were more a matter of God’s protection and God’s will than anything else. David knew this, too. When he asked for God’s help and protection “for the sake of your name” (v. 3b) he was referencing the promises God had made to Israel and to him personally for Israel.

Even as he called on God for help, David knew that his days were determined by the sovereign will of God. When he wrote, “My times are in your hands” (v. 15a), he was humbly submitting to what God had determined for him. If God were to let him die in battle, that is his right as Lord.

Yet David was not deterministic about it. Recognizing that God had already decreed when and how he would die did not prevent David from asking God to “… deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me” (v. 15b-c). He was bold in asking for God’s help and giving God reasons why he should help; yet he was humble and submitted to whatever the Lord had willed.

Until Christ returns, death is a reality for each of us. People we love will die and someday, so will we. Fearing death (and other things in life) is natural. Crying out to God and looking to him for help and deliverance honors him in those moments. So does recognizing that your time and mine will come when God wills. These are all expressions of faith. Faith is not the absence of fear. Faith asking God for help when we are afraid as well as trusting his will when the time comes for us to go. We don’t need luck to protect us. Faith in our God is a much better defense.

VIDEO: The Luckiest Man in Iraq: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AjCAuYkrgA