Bible Devotions

Moses Meditations



2011-02-22 – “Unexpectedly Thwarted”

10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.” (Exodus2:10)

The book of Genesis ends with the story of Joseph becoming second-in-command in Egypt and Abraham and the rest of the family coming from Israel to Egypt to see the famine through. Centuries later the Israelites have prospered in Egypt and have become a threat to the Egyptians who oppress them cruelly.



In Ex.1 we read that Pharoah subjected them to slave labour, that he instructed the midwives to kill their baby boys, and when this failed he commanded his soldiers to kill all the boys by throwing them into the Nile. It is evil in its worst form: Kill the boys but leave the women to bear children (with Egyptian dads) – they wanted a nation of slaves and would try to “breed them into submission.”



The story of Moses is about Pharoah being defeated by women:



1. The midwives steadfastly refused to kill Hebrew children.



2. A Levite woman had a healthy baby boy and she was determined that she was not going to allow him to be killed. So she strategically placed him in a basket in the river near where Pharoah’s daughter would bathe. (I think it is safe to guess that the princess was well known for her rebellious streak!)



3. Pharoah’s daughter recognised the baby as a Hebrew baby but decides to adopt him anyway. (A move that would have embarrassed and humiliated Pharoah and that only a doted-upon daughter could get away with!)



4. Moses’ older sister is lurking in the background and when she hears the princess’ desire to adopt, she runs forward and says “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women (nudge nudge wink wink) to nurse the baby for you?” And Pharoah’s daughter agrees and Moses is raised and nursed by his own mother.



The book of Exodus is about God working in the midst of His people. The cultures of the day disregarded women but here we see God using their courage, compassion and cleverness. There is an amazing amount that can be done to dismantle oppression and evil by being steadfast, strategic and sympathetic.

2011-02-24 – “Impulsive”


One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labour. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand (Exodus2:11-12)

If first impressions count, what do we learn about Moses in these verses?



1. Physically he was strong and imposing. (If you go down a couple of verses, he confronts two Israelites who are fighting and one of them asks him “are you going to kill me like you killed the Egyptian?”) Also when he gets to Midian and the shepherds chased Jethro’s daughters away from the well, Moses stands up and his presence is imposing enough that the shepherds back down.



2. Moses is wired for justice. Injustice makes him burn and turn and churn – he cannot be a spectator to injustice – he feels forced to action immediately. He sees the Jethro’s daughters being chased from the well and he “_got_ _up_ and came to their rescue and watered their flock.” (Ex.2:17)



3. He turned to violence as his first resort. We can probably attribute this to him being young and testosterone-filled. His physical strength was an asset and he naturally played toward his strengths. He would have to develop other strengths…



4. He hadn’t yet learned that if you’re going to do something that is wrong, there is always someone who will see you!!



This is our initial picture of Moses: Strong, Passionate, Violent and Unwise. But God could transform these qualities into great leadership. We should learn from Moses’ mistakes, but also be encouraged by God’s transforming grace.

2011-02-25 – “Learning to Stutter”


Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 22 Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, “I have become an alien in a foreign land.” (Exodus2:21)

Yesterday we looked at Moses’ impulsiveness.



Let’s look at his CV for a moment:

Age 0: The only survivor of Pharoah’s “Hebrew Male Genocide.”

Age 1- aprox 20: Adopted as the Princess’ son with the education

and privileges of royalty.

Age +-20-25: Murders an Egyptian, trashing all his privileges, has to flee.

The next 40 years: A wandering shepherd in Midian, married with two sons.



One can imagine that the young Moses was urbane and educated. His rash murder of the Egyptian demonstrated his confidence and sense of invincibility. But the years of his exile wore away his confidence. Our text verses show the extent of the depression and regret he has dropped into. “I have become an alien in a foreign land.”



Forty years is the amount of time he waited in Midian. In Biblical symbolism forty has become the number of waiting, preparation, separation, renewal and refocusing.

- The flood was for forty days

- Israel wandered the desert for forty years


- Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai receiving the Law

- Joshua, Caleb and the spies were in the land for forty days

- Elijah walked forty days to get to Horeb to hear from God

- Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for forty days



After forty years God called Moses at the burning bush to lead Israel out of slavery. One of the excuses is that Moses offers is that he is “slow of speech and tongue.” I often jokingly suggest that forty years of herding sheep made Moses a stutterer – “Ba-aa-ah!”



Forty years: A time of waiting. A time of unlearning impulsiveness. A time to forgive yourself for past failures. A time to learn about the beauty of the land, the simplicity of the rhythms of work, rest, marriage and parenting. Forty years to forget the gods of Egypt and have one’s heart ready for the call of the one true God.



Moses may have always been slow of speech, or he may have learned it in the wilderness. There is no doubt that in view of the leadership task ahead of him, he needed a good deposit of quietness and simplicity.



Is there room for quiet simplicity in your life?

2011-03-01 – “Burns but does not consume”


2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. (Exodus3:2)

“The bush burned but it was not consumed…”




* If you serve drugs or alcohol, you will be destroyed by your addiction.

* If you you are a workaholic, the stress will damage you.

* If you are trying to keep up with the Joneses you may have a lot of stuff, but no friends.

* If you pursue fame and popularity, your goalposts will be forever moving.

* If money is your obsession, you will never have enough.



But the bush burned and was not consumed.

Many have called faith an “obsession.”

But when our focus is Christ – then He renews us in His service and even when we lose the world we have gained our souls.



Moses was called to bring everything into God’s service.

His life burned brightly with the calling that God had placed upon him. Although he worked hard, put in long hours and made many sacrifices, he burned but was not consumed.



While it is true that many in ministry have had heart attacks and break-downs, these folk have always admitted that they had forgotten the “LORD of the work” and had become obsessed with the “WORK of the Lord.”



Being focussed on God is the key.


Jesus said: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt11:29-30)

2011-03-02 – “Awesome Caring God”


“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians… (Exodus3:5-8)


Moses has been in the wilderness for forty years (according to Acts 7:30) During this time he has had plenty of opportunity to reflect on the plight of his people: from his own narrow escape from death to the contrast of the opulence of Pharaoh’s palace and the enslavement of his people. He has pondered the injustice and his own powerlessness.



Was he searching for God? We don’t know. But God was about to find Moses!



Here’s how God introduces Himself:



- I am holy: Take off your shoes. My presence makes even the ground holy. I am not mired down by the pettiness of human governments and regimes.



- I am the God of history: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But this genealogy includes the children and future of these patriarchs. Not only the God of history past, but history present and history future. I am the history maker.


- I am the God who cares: I have SEEN their misery. I have HEARD their cries. I am CONCERNED about their suffering. He is the God who sees, hears and cares about our day-to-day “stuff.” When we suffer He is concerned.



- I am the God who rescues: “I have come down to rescue them.” Israel’s salvation did not begin when Moses went to Pharoah. It began when God lit the bush and called Moses. He “came down.”



This is how God introduces Himself to Moses and over a thousand years later, these same truths would be true when Jesus came as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, dividing history into BC and AD because He had seen our pain, heard our cries and was so concerned about us that Jesus “came down”.

2011-03-03 – “What’s in a name?”


Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, `What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: `I AM has sent me to you.’ ” (Exodus3:14)


The Hebrew verb “hayah” means to “be.” God uses this verse to introduce himself using this simple yet powerful construct. “I AM who I AM.”



This has a present and future connotation.

“I AM and will always BE!”

“I AM the constant one!”

“I AM with you!”




In uncertain times He is the the One whose “constancy in presence” makes all the difference. The name doesn’t pin Him down or trap Him. He is not “rock” or “mountain.” He calls Himself “I AM.” No matter where you are or what trouble you are in: “I AM!”



It is this same verb that forms the root of the Old Testament’s favourite unique name for God – Yahweh (translated by some as Jehovah) which is the 3rd person form of “hayah” and means “He IS.”



People asked the Israelites “Who’s your God?”

They would answer “Yahweh! – He, the One who IS!”



When I was a teen, there was a Swedish Gospel Band “Edin Adahl” who sang a song entitled “X-Factor.” In the chorus they sang:

You are the X-Factor, eternal life reactor, You are the X-Factor.

You put my heart in motion, activate my inner section,

You are the X-Factor!



I like the idea behind the song. God is much more than a constant but He is more than simply a variable (small “x”) He is the “(capital) X factor” – He is the “Constant-Variable” that brings life, change and transformation. Introduce the “X” into any equation and the equation becomes dependent on X.



God IS.

And when He is in the room, things will change!

2011-03-04 – “Mumbling Moses”


But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharoah and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be a sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you (plural) will worship God on this mountain.” (Exodus3:11-12)

(This is a reprint of a dev I sent out in 2007…)



Let’s remember the background here: This exchange takes place at the burning bush. The previous chapter describes how Moses acted impulsively, killing an Egyptian slavemaster, and fleeing to Midian. In Midian he names his son “Gershom” which means “alien” and describes the depression that Moses has fallen into.



Now here at the burning bush, God gives Moses a chance to start over, but there’s an issue that needs to be cleared out of the way first…



Moses’ question appears humble and self-deprecating. If Moses was really being humble then God’s answer would have been different. If we put the “I’s” in bold then we get a better sense of what this is all about.



As it stands Moses acts as if it all depends on him. _He_ will go to Pharoah and _he_ will bring the the Israelites out – All by himself. I can just picture him get ready to put on a long face because God has given him this impossible task to fulfill.



God’s answer makes short work of the objection:

1.I will be with you.

2.When _YOU_ have brought the people out _YOU_ AND THE PEOPLE will worship _ME_ on this mountain.




When the job was done it would be obvious that God had done all the hard work!



Moses thought it was all about him… but WORSHIP says it’s all about God.

Moses thought he had to do it all alone… but God says “I will be with you.”



(Have a great weekend and let’s WORSHIP GOD this Sunday!)

2011-03-08 – “Loose Ends”


At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. 26 So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.) (Exodus4:24 )

At first sight this is a bizarre passage.

God has just called Moses at the burning bush.

He has outlined a future for Moses and has dealt with all of his excuses.

Moses has burnt his bridges and is on his way to Egypt – and now God wants to kill him???

It doesn’t make sense!




To get the answer of this puzzle, we have to go back a bit…

When God instituted the covenant with Abraham, He instructed him to circumcise boys on the eighth day. This is unusual. Surrounding nations circumcised at puberty. Imagine little Israelite boys swimming at the water hole with Canaanite kids. “Why have you already been circumcised?” the heathen boys would ask.

“Because I belong to God!” would be the reply.

Circumcision was about being God’s people.



Moses did not circumcise his boys on the eighth day.

It seems Zipporah didn’t like the idea…

He didn’t circumcise them as they got older either.

It was a blatant loose-end – a rejection of the covenant.

And it is as much about Zipporah as it is of Moses.



It is about full commitment to God and devotion to Him.

Moses needed to be a shepherd and not a hireling.

Failure to circumcise his sons would set a poor example and leave his family as hangers-on instead of part of the nation of Israel.

It was a really important principle issue.


When God calls us to leadership – we will need to recognise that He will delve into the dark and forgotten corners of our lives and “clean up” so that we are not disqualified by discrepancies and loose-ends…

2011-03-11 – “Persistence Required”


Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (Exodus5:22)

Moses and Aaron had been to the people of Israel and told them of God’s concern for them and His plan for their deliverance. They had been to Pharaoh demand freedom for the Israelites, but Pharoahs are not easily intimidated and his response was to increase the hardship and cruelty to the Israelites.



This is a huge setback for Moses and the people of Israel. It causes Moses to doubt himself and his calling. Instead of making a big impression as Israel’s liberator, Moses gets the blame for rocking the boat and kicking the hornet’s nest!



But what Moses does right is that he takes his doubts to the right place. He takes his complaint to God.



Even when we are serving God and giving Him our best, things can go wrong. We wrongly assume that serving God is our guarantee for an easy road. This isn’t always so. There are often hiccups and setbacks. Sometimes they come from our own imperfections, sometimes from the shortcomings of others, sometimes there is opposition from the evil one and at other times it is simply the brokenness of this fallen world.



When these things happen, it is not unusual for us to feel like Moses. “What are You doing Lord? What did I do to deserve this?” We are not the only ones who have felt like this and we will not be the last.



The comforting thing is that God carried Moses through the “dark night of the soul” and He will carry us. As Moses had to learn to trust God through the vagaries of Pharaoh’s hardness of heart, so we must learn to navigate the swamps of setbacks and discouragement.

2011-03-16 – “Hardened Heart”


3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.” (Exodus7:3-5)

This is a difficult subject. Does God make people’s hearts hard? People are often offended at the idea that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that the Israelites and Egyptians would see His glory. Was that fair to Pharaoh and his people?



We have to put it more precisely:

“Does God turn innocent people into evil people?”

or “Does God give evil people enough rope to hang themselves?”



How _does_ God harden Pharaoh’s heart?

With repeated appeals and miracles (the plagues) to do the right thing!

Pharaoh said “NO!” ten times!

He had ten momentous opportunities to do the right thing.

He had ten encounters where it was clear that God was at work.

He was given ten clear signs of God’s power yet he did not listen.


In the calling of Isaiah we see a similar construct:

God tells Isaiah “Go and tell this people:

” `Be ever hearing, but never understanding;

be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’

Make the heart of this people calloused;

make their ears dull and close their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

hear with their ears, understand with their hearts,

and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)




How does Isaiah carry out his calling?

By repeatedly calling the people to repent and return,

by warning them of the coming judgement if they do not repent

and by painting the most incredible pictures of the coming Messiah.



How does God harden hearts? By giving people so many opportunities to repent that when they refuse to, they only have themselves to blame.

2011-03-17 – “Be Still and Know”


Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus14:13-14)

The Israelites have left Egypt. Pharaoh has changed his mind and is pursuing with his army. The Israelites are terrified. (It’s one thing to take the slave out of slavery and another to take slavery out of the slave!)



When panic sets in, it brings some of its buddies:

- Blame: “It’s your fault Moses!”

- Assume the worst: “It’s better to be slaves than to die”


- Fight or Flight



Before the Israelites can get to fight or flight (although some may say that they are already fighting with Moses!) we hear Moses bringing a strong and comforting word:

- Do not be afraid!

- Stand firm!

- God is busy doing something big!

- Be STILL!



Moses is not panicked – he’s not blaming, assuming or locked into fight/flight. He is still, open and receptive.



And wonders follow!

The sea parts

The Israelites pass through

The Egyptians are foolish enough to follow.



We are prone to panic. Being still allows even an unbeliever to make a better decision. But for the believer, being still really means “Be still and know that He is God.” We affirm that we are not god, our circumstances are not god, our problems are not god, our enemies are not god, but our God is the God of the parted sea, the cross of forgiveness and the empty tomb!

2011-03-18 – “Praise and Family”


20 Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them:

“Sing to the LORD,

for he is highly exalted.

The horse and its rider

he has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus15:20-21)


Miriam was Moses’ brother. She was the young girl who followed the basket that had Moses in it and suggested to Pharaoh’s daughter that she organise a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby.



She is introduced here as Aaron’s sister and as a prophetess. It seems unusual to leave out her connection to Moses out but I think there are two reasons for this:



Firstly, Aaron’s role would ultimately be a priestly one. He would be the one in charge of worship at the tabernacle and responsible for the priests. In the light of the praise song that Miriam brings (probably the oldest song of praise we have recorded in Scripture) and her role as a prophetess it makes sense to introduce her in relationship to Aaron.




Secondly, we also know that later in the story Aaron and Miriam make a grab for some of Moses’ authority and it may be that we are being prepared for this by having our attention drawn to their connection.



This passage highlights family and faith and gives us the positives and the negatives. On the positive side: No-one knows us better than family does. They see us “warts and all” and when Moses’ family follow in his footsteps in ministry, it validates the sincerity of Moses’ faith and example.



On the negative side, even with family ambition and jealousy can creep in and we see this when Aaron and Miriam make a grab for more power. What is good to see is that they are able to sort it out and they return to making a positive contribution.



Finally, as we go into the weekend, let us take note of Miriam at her best, throwing her head back and dancing with exuberant joy at God’s goodness. It is great when God’s people offer Him hearty praise for the good things He has done. Let’s do that this Sunday!

2011-03-23 – “Practical Healing”


23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter…

25 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you. (Exodus15:23-26)


Jamie Buckingham was a well-known author who regularly conducted pilgrimages for people who wanted to walk in the footsteps of Moses and the Israelites.




He offers a very practical interpretation of this passage…

Most of the water in the oases in the Sinai had high contents of calcium and magnesium, making them bitter or brackish. It also made the water act as a laxative. The Arab guides who accompanied him used to jokingly say, “one cup and you go for a week.”



Throwing branches into the water released sap which bound with the some of the chemicals and sank to the bottom, reducing the bitterness.



Buckingham postulates that the Israelites came from Egypt with gut-fulls of bugs, parasites and worms. (Is this why they were so good at belly-aching?) The waters of Marah (on day three of their journey into the wilderness) was God’s practical way of cleansing the people from all their intestinal bugs.



If we understand that the waters of Marah had a healing purpose then the juxtaposition of the idea of healing in v26 with the Marah story makes sense.



Sometimes we encounter hardship along the way and we are quick to complain – we don’t always realise that God is working through these experiences to strengthen, heal, cleanse and prepare us.



I am not saying that God is the author of evil and suffering, but we also need to realise that God’s way is not always the easiest one. He has a bigger picture in mind. He is more interested in our long-term healing than our short-term comfort. We have to trust that He _is_ the God who heals us and that He will work in unexpected ways.

2011-03-24 – “Learning…”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. (Exodus16:4)

This chapter contains fairly detailed instructions for something fairly straightforward: the daily collection of food. God provided Manna for the Israelites. It came every morning except for the Sabbath and the people were to gather enough for the day and double on the day before the Sabbath.



It seems pretty simple and mechanical:

wake up, collect manna, eat manna, walk, set up camp, go to sleep, wake up, collect…



But there were some important lessons to learn:

1. God is faithful and reliable.

2. Trust God day by day

3. Learn to follow instructions

4. Some habits are good…



Unfortunately the Israelites soon tired of the routine and complained bitterly. Keith Green parodies the Israelites complaining about Manna:

“And in the morning it’s manna hotcakes. We snack on manna all day.

And they sure had a winner last night for dinner, flaming manna soufflé…

What… Oh no, manna again?

Oh, manna waffles…


Manna burgers…

Manna bagels…

Fillet of manna…

Mannaroni…

Bamanna bread!”



But there are some rhythms that are profitable to repeat over and over and over again. A world-renowned concert pianist still plays scales and a world class athlete still does push-ups.

And we still need to turn to God’s Word daily and talk to Him in prayer.

2011-03-25 – “Teamwork”


8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”



10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side, one on the other–so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. (Exodus17:8-13)


So, who won the battle? Joshua, Joshua’s army, Moses, Aaron and Hur, or God?

- Joshua: who led the army and who the Bible credits?


- Joshua’s army: who actually did the fighting?

- Moses: Who prayed for them?

- Aaron and Hur: Whose support kept Moses focussed on his job?

- God



The obvious answer is God – and technically that is the correct answer.

The fascinating thing is that God chooses to work in a team.

- God didn’t need Joshua, the army or Moses.

- God was teaching them about teamwork.



Sometimes we get to be the general, sometimes we get to be the footsoldiers, sometimes we get to be the ones doing background work (like prayer, admin, and caring) and sometimes we are the encouraging supporters.



Every person in the equation is important and every person in the equation needs to depend on God to help them play their part.



Sometimes the victory is credited to the general, and the encouragers are not necessarily acknowledged, but everyone is needed!



I’d like to end with a focus on the role of Aaron and Hur. Recognising the need to encourage and support others doesn’t always come easily. With Moses it was easy to recognise that his arms got tired and there were visible results when his arms got tired.




It is not always easy to see when someone’s battery is going flat and one can’t always see the immediate and significant effects that the discouragement of someone who works “behind the scenes” can have.



Make time to encourage the faithful folk who work behind the scenes. It could make a big difference.

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EmmDevs will be taking a break for the school hols…

2011-04-12 – “co-inky-dink?”


Welcome back after the school holidays!

——————————————-

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” (Exodus18:13-14)


A COINCIDENCE is when God does a miracle and decides to stay anonymous.



We all know the account of Moses and the advice his father-in-law Jethro gives him about delegating responsibility… It’s one that is used in business leadership courses even today.


Here’s the scene: Moses is busy from sunrise to sunset adjudicating over the affairs, great and small, of the Israelites. Jethro advises him to appoint leaders over tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands and to delegate responsibility to them. Moses followed Jethro’s advice and it worked out well…



But the co-inky-dink in the story is the fact that Jethro’s visit just so happened to come _just_ _after_ the victory over the Amalekites (this was our EmmDev just before the holidays) where Aaron and Hur had stepped in and held Moses’ arms in the air so that the Israelites would win the battle.



My question is: Would Moses have been as open to his father-in-law’s advice if he had not recently experienced the power of teamwork first-hand?



I find it wonderful to to look back on important developments in my life and to realise that God has been leading me, using one experience to prepare me for the next and bringing the right people along the way who will walk the next stretch of the road with me.



Thanks be to God for His Providence!

2011-04-13 – “God’s CV”


And God spoke all these words:

2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery…” (Exodus20:1-2)


We come now to the giving of the Ten Commandments. Moses has had the people prepare themselves. Sinai is rattling and smoking like a volcano and the people can hear God’s voice like thunder. Moses has headed up the mountain and the people are waiting in anticipation…


Many people see the ten commandments as the ten-rung step-ladder into heaven. They think that the commandments were given as a way of proving our worthiness for heaven.



The Pharisees of Jesus’ day had turned the Ten Commandments into an entire system of piety. They elaborated on the rules, adapted the rules for changing circumstances, in some areas they made the rules more manageable and in other places they turned one commandment into multiple boxes to be ticked.



But they missed the point! The ten commandments are not a “Save-yourself-plan” but a picture of what our God is like.



In Isaiah 6 we read that the angels around the throne describe God as “Holy Holy Holy.” The Ten Commandments give us some idea of what the angels mean…



When we look at the Ten Commandments from the perspective of the character and nature of God rather than a list of do’s and don’ts there is a lot that we can learn. The ten commandments show us what God likes and doesn’t like. They give us an insight into the things that are issues for Him. The Ten Commandments are like a timeless CV for the Almighty.



Notice too, those who think that Commandments are about saving yourself, that God introduces Himself: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” He is the God who saves – we don’t save ourselves.



Join me as we start with the first command tomorrow…

2011-04-14 – “1. Exclusive Relationship”

You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus20:3)

If the commandments reflect the nature and character of God, then what does the first command teach us?



It is tempting to think that the first and the second commandments portray God as insecure, narcissistic and full of petty jealousies, but that would be to grossly underestimate the nature of God.



God is completely good, all powerful, all glorious. The bottom-line is not that God is _dependent_ on our worship (He is not a needy God) but quite simply that He _deserves_ it. He is so glorious, so majestic, and so magnificent that glory naturally belongs to Him. It’s like gravity – you can’t go against it.



If I were to ignore gravity and walk off a cliff, what will happen to me? Will I float gently down? No, I will begin to accelerate downwards at a rate of 10m/s until I reach terminal velocity and meet the ground with a terminal crash!



Our Creator is magnificent – just look at the stars!

Our Father in Heaven is majestic – just watch the sunsets!

Our King is glorious – just spend some time trying to understand DNA!

Our Saviour is worthy of worship – just think about the cross.



When He calls us to worship Him alone, He is simply telling us the truth. There is no-one and no-thing that can fill God’s shoes. If we worship anything else, we are worshipping a fake.



The universe “just works” when its Creator is acknowledged.


Trying to ignore or replace Him is like trying to ignore gravity: we’re going to get hurt.

2011-04-15 – “2a. Limits”


You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; (Exodus20:4-5)

Worshipping a mountain or a tree or a rock as your god is dealt with in the first commandment. In fact, one would think that the first commandment pretty much covers everything… (What part of “no other gods” is hard to understand?!?)



The second commandment deals with making images, it has to do with making your own gods. It’s about creating a god that suits you. This is powerfully covered by Isaiah who talks about wealthy people using gold to make their idols and poor people using wood. They cast and carve them carefully so that they “do not topple” lest the kids bump “god” over when they’re running around the house! (See Isaiah 40, pasted below)



The second commandment has to do with picking and choosing what you want your god to be like. It is about limiting God. When we make an idol we are trying the “concretise” God. Andrew Greeley suggests that idolatry is about “making an absolute of the relative.” Making an idol means we are trying to get a “handle” on God.



While we don’t have many physical idols today, there are many Christians today who are guilty of adapting their “picture” of God to suit themselves.

- Many have a “name it and claim it theology” turning God into a heavenly vending machine.

- Many have a “critical judge with a big stick” theology

- Many would like to put God in a box, confidently saying “God will never…” or “God will always…” when actually they are going beyond what is revealed in Scripture.

- This is particularly true in the area of “spiritual warfare” where many people have got caught up in “spiritual cowboys and crooks” and they have developed a complex set of “rules” and “prayers” (more like spells) that go beyond what Scripture actually teaches.




The second commandment is about God’s sovereign freedom. He is bigger and greater and more complex than we can grasp and we should not limit Him. When people made idols they had the “measure” of their god – there was no room for mystery. When we deal with the one true God, there will always be mystery for we can never have the full measure of Him.

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Isaiah 40:18 To whom, then, will you compare God?

What image will you compare him to?



19 As for an idol, a craftsman casts it,

and a goldsmith overlays it with gold

and fashions silver chains for it.

20 A man too poor to present such an offering

selects wood that will not rot.

He looks for a skilled craftsman


to set up an idol that will not topple.



21 Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood since the earth was founded?



22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,

and its people are like grasshoppers.

He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,

and spreads them out like a tent to live in.


23 He brings princes to naught

and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

24 No sooner are they planted,

no sooner are they sown,

no sooner do they take root in the ground,

than he blows on them and they wither,

and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

2011-05-06 – “2b. Jealous God?”


Firstly: Let me apologise for the long gap in eDevs – Easter was a busy time and in the middle of Holy Week I got hit with a tummy bug that stayed with me for six days and left me four kilograms lighter. (Thankfully I could afford to lose the weight! :-) I was also given grace and strength to fulfill all my preaching and service duties although I was a bit “pale and interesting”)




It has taken me a long time to get back into routine again…



We’re continuing with “God’s CV in the Ten Commandments.” We’re still busy with the second commandment.

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4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus20:4-5)


When we dealt with the first commandment, I pointed out that God is not insecure, narcissistic or full of petty jealousies, but here in the second commandment there seems to be a contradiction.



But it comes back to the analogy I used about the Law of Gravity: If you ignore it, you will get hurt. Here in the second commandment, knowing human-nature’s tendency to try to have a “designer god”, we are warned that God is jealous for His own glory.



It really means He is jealous for the truth.

The truth is this: There is no true God but Him.

When we deny this, we live a lie and because He is truth, He cannot tolerate a lie.



This is not petty jealousy but holy jealousy. It is about being consistent. Consistency requires that lies are not tolerated.



How do we deal with the idea of future generations being punished for the failures of their parents? This is a complex issue and I handled it in detail when we worked through Jeremiah and Ezekiel. (I have given links and the old devs below….)




The key to understanding this is that evil is often systemic. Evil becomes greater than a person, but part of a system. Evil practices make their way into the legacies of families and nations. This was particularly true with idolatry. Children worshipped the idols their grandparents had made.



We know that our early years are formative for the development of faith. The spiritual patterns we keep in our early years stay with us for life. With this rider to the second commandment, God is warning parents of the legacy of bad spiritual patterns.



What spiritual patterns and habits are we showing our children?

God warns us that this is serious business!

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Two links for a discussion on “Generational Curses”



http://emmdev.blogspot.com/2011/01/emmdev-2011-01-25-jeremiahs-journey.html



http://emmdev.blogspot.com/2011/01/emmdev-2011-01-26-jeremiahs-journey.html

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Two eDevs on “Generational Curses”



Ezekiel 18:2-4


What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:

`The Fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge`?

As surely as I live declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son – both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.



I started this devotion last week and realised that I had bitten off more than I could chew! This will now be in two parts…



These days there is a lot of talk about `generational curses.` Today many attribute physical illnesses like arthiritis, asthma and migraines to the fact that a grandparent was involved in spiritualism or something like that. Today many blame sin in their parents and grandparents for their own lack of spiritual growth or their ill physical health.



Even in `pop psychology` there has been a trend toward laying the blame for our neuroses and problems at the door of our parents who were too strict or too lax, or too protective, or too busy, or whatever.



The problem is that the Scriptures do indicate that the consequences of sin _can_ bridge generations. Part of the second commandment says: `For I the Lord Your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.` (Ex.20:5)



From this has evolved a whole theology that desperately tries to blame something or someone for the bad things that happen to us. When we can’t cope with the sadness and grief that sometimes befalls us or those we love, the result is often a scapegoat theology.



There are two important balancing issues when we look at the second commandment: The first is that the particular sin that God singles out here is idolatry and the worship of other gods. The second is even more significant. Who does God say are the ones on whom the sin of the parents and grandparents and great-grandparents is poured out?? Read carefully and say it with me. `Those … who…. hate…. God…..`



Who are the hateful ones? The folk who originally are sinful, or the third or fourth generation? Ezekiel’s audience said it was their ancestors who were guilty! It was those who had gone before (and weren’t there to defend themselves!) who were the ones who hated God, and the exiles were the `innocent` victims! They therefore held out the idea that they (the `faithful`) were being punished by God for the sins of the `hateful`!




Ezekiel’s response is typical of the fine balance we find in Scripture where difficult issues are held in creative tension. If the 2nd commandment is one side of the tension, then Ezekiel’s response to the Exiles is the other tug-of-war team… There is a balance to be kept.



We may be a composite of our genes, our history, and our upbringing, but we also exercise our own unique choices. This play has a script that allows us to ad-lib and Ezekiel points out to the Exiles that their own ad-libbing was just as, if not more serious, than their ancestral legacy.



What is Scripture’s response to those who would take the 2nd commandment and the issue of `generational curses` too far???

No longer will it be said: `The Fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge`



More on this tomorrow…

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Yesterday we started looking at difficult issue of `generational curses.`



There are those who would hold that I may suffer from an ailment that doesn’t want to get better because it is the consequence of something evil that my ancestors up to a fourth generation had done. In the view of extreme forms of this kind of teaching, I may suffer for things I might not even know my ancestors did! Even prayer for healing cannot help because these ailments have a `legal right` to be there and until I renounce the failings of my predecessors, I cannot experience relief.



This is a picture painted from only one of the many perspectives that the OT offers. When we were at school we did technical drawings and we had to do various kinds of drawings. One was called an Orthographic Projection. In this kind of represention you draw three views of the object and each view is in 2D: front, left, and top. If one were to draw a plain round pillar in orthographic representation then the top view is a circle and the front and left views are rectangles! The round column is not a rectangle or a circle, if we keep to only one perspective, an incomplete picture is formed!



Why do things (especially bad things) happen to us? Are we the victims of fate, or are we completely free of the past? Scripture’s answer is a balanced one. We cannot ignore the legacy of brokenness that comes through our ancestry, culture, and structure, but there is also the reality of the darkness in us.




But there are _other_ perspectives too… There is the perspective of national sin: that an individual may experience the brokeness that is the result of the nation’s sin. War is a good example. Pain can also be a warning and a wake-up call. Heartache can be the lifeboat that takes us to repentance and new faith. Suffering can build our faith, sharpen our focus, and refine our commitment.



I am very concerned that modern society is stuck in the `scapegoat theology` I mentioned yesterday. Today we continually blame to the legacy of the `old dispensation` in this country as the cause of all ills. I am not denying the horrors and inequalities of the apartheid legacy, but is our myopic insistence that the problem is `back there` not the very thing that is blinding us to the fact that we are going to repeat that history in another form?



Even individuals are in total denial about their own contribution to their difficulties. I met a smoker who with a shrug said that he could not give up, and that this must be a demon of nicotine that kept him bound. He simply refused to admit that he lacked the courage and discipline to do what he had to do.



Ezekiel’s stance is that if our teeth are set on edge, we should not start with teeth that are furthest away when we look for traces of sour grapes. Rather than beginning with the past, let us look to the present first.

2011-05-10 – “3. What’s in a name?”


“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Exodus20:7)

Blasphemy has become commonplace today. Today we have the deplorable situation that movies are age-restricted for bad language, but kids cartoons, like the recent “Megamind” has repeated “Oh my God” exclamations. And in sms speak it is a standardised abbreviation: OMG.



I often am tempted to turn to people who are always saying “Oh my God” and ask them “Oh wow! Please tell me about YOUR God…”


But before we get too carried away about the complexities of the use of “(G)god” by people who are often functional and even practical atheists, it may be helpful to consider the deeper issues:



In Hebrew thinking, a name was a powerful thing – it encapsulated who you were. This is why it is important that Jacob (which means “deceiver” and “manipulator”) is renamed Israel (which means “he struggles with God”)



When God revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush with a name that our scholars best represent as “Yahweh” (Old translations used “Jehovah” while modern translations use “LORD” (all capitals)) It was a significant moment. Yahweh means “I am” – eternal, eternally the same, eternally present, all powerful, all present and all knowing.



The commandment to use His name with care is about ensuring that we don’t lose sight of who He is. The commandment is to protect us:

* If we repeat His name endlessly and thoughtlessly we lose respect for Him.

* If we say His name in ways that associate Him with things that are not His nature. For example, when we use His name in anger, we connect our picture of Him with petty human rage instead of divine justice.

* If we thank “the big guy upstairs” for helping us win the tennis game or the soccer match, we may well be creating the impression that He has been reduced to being a “divine vending machine” that dishes out blessings on demand.

* Even wearing a Christian T-shirt or having a bumper sticker on the car and then setting a bad example boils down to bringing God’s name into disrepute.



So, in summary, many people are concerned about blasphemy “out there” amongst those who don’t really believe. I am much more concerned about the blasphemy of Christians who don’t use God’s name well.




Here’s one last thought – because it takes us all the way to Sunday School. I cringe when I hear adult teachers who shape their lessons so that the name of God loses connection with the God-Man who came all the way from heaven to earth to die for us. We ask our children questions again and again and they learn that the standard answer is “Jeeeeeeeesusssss.”

So a pastor was doing children’s story and he asked them: “I’m thinking about something small and brown that stores up nuts for the winter…. what is it?”

A little boy answered “Pastor, I know the answer is Jeeesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me!”



May we portray Him better than that!

2011-05-11 – “4a. Work and Rest”


8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus20:8-11)

The most interesting thing about the fourth command is that when the ten commandments are repeated in Deuteronomy 5, there is a different reason given for observing the Sabbath:

“15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”



I think this gives us some very helpful guidance:



1. Rest is part of our created ideal. God institutes rest as part of the cycle of life. Our bodies grow through work AND rest. When I exercise, I am actually causing micro-tears in my muscles. When I rest, the body repairs the tears by growing the muscle bigger. Is not exercise that grows the muscle, but rest! We can cope with stress if we have cycles of rest. The created order reflects this in day&night and in the seasons. And the cycle of six days work and one day recovery is part of the created order. Jesus summed this up when He said that the Sabbath was made for us and not us for the Sabbath.




2. Rest affirms that we are not slaves. Not to our jobs or the rat race. The Sabbath is a reset-switch where I can affirm that my identity comes from Christ and not my effort. I can connect to my family and break the relentless cycle of work. It is an opportunity to celebrate our blessings. It is an opportunity to worship the God who freed us. This is why the Church moved our Sabbath from the Jewish Seventh day to Sunday, the Day that Jesus rose from the dead, setting us free from sin, death and Satan.



So what does a good Sabbath look like??

1. Change the pace

2. Worship

3. Family

4. It’s ok to get the sheep out of the well (emergencies)

5. Re-creation



The bottom line: Take rest seriously! It is part of the created order and you are not a slave!

2011-05-12 – “4b. What the Sabbath says about God”


8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus20:8-11)

Yesterday I spoke about how we understand and observe the Sabbath, but our approach to the Ten Commandments in this series has been to see what the Commandments teach us about God…




As we saw yesterday the Sabbath is good for us, but it also tells us some important things about God:



1. He is not a “driven” God. He creates and then He rests, not because He is exhausted, but because He is at peace.



2. He is not a slave-driver. He is a Liberator and a Saviour. Remember the Deuteronomy motive for the Sabbath: “Because I brought you out of Bondage.”



3. He is a God who calls us to serve Him with excellence (as creation is excellent) but also to rest. In Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”



4. The book of Hebrews repeatedly refers to Salvation and Eternal Life as our “Sabbath Rest.” So being with God brings us to the place of rest. It was Augustine who said “Our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” This restfulness can begin as soon as we come to Salvation in Christ.



So, God is not an “A-Type” personality, He is not driven but full of rest and if the images in Hebrews are taken seriously then every “Sabbath” we have is a prophetic foretaste of heaven!

2011-05-17 – “5. Honour”


Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.


(Exodus20:12)


The commandments shift in focus from God, to our fellow human being. One might argue that we therefore move from Spirituality to Ethics, but Paul’s list of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 really goes to show that how we treat others is a character and therefore a spiritual issue.



The bottom-line is that God is gracious in His dealings with us and so, if we are in His image, we will reflect that same graciousness.



It is fitting that the first of the commandments that point toward others is about parents:

- Our parents give us all we need while we are helpless.

- God reveals Himself as our Heavenly Parent (The OT uses images of Father and Mother)



We love applying this commandment to kids and teens, but it is very interesting that Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for using religious excuses to neglect the needs of their elderly parents. (See passage below)



Paul also sees a bigger picture:

He talks about the fifth commandment being the first one with a promise – a long life. There is a spiritual sense in which this is true: God will bless those who honour their parents. But it is also true in a practical sense: Our children will look at how we treat our parents and treat us the same!



It’s very tempting to neglect, disregard and dishonour our parents because they will always love us.


So, the bottom-line is: As the commandments begin to deal with our horizontal relationships, honouring our parents is not only for rebellious teens, but the children and grand-children of parents of any age.



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Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise– 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”



Mark 7:10 For Moses said, `Honor your father and your mother,’ and, `Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: `Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother.

2011-05-19 – “6. Murder”


You shall not murder.

(Exodus20:13)


For all its brevity, this command evokes a lot of discussion:

- Questions about the Death Penalty

- Questions about Abortion

- Questions about Euthanasia


- And then in the NT Jesus points out that hatred and insult extrapolate to murder.



Our focus in this series has been to see what the commandments teach us about God, and so, from that perspective, I’d like to raise the following perspectives.



1. Life is a gift from God. It is to be celebrated and valued. We should regard all life as precious and we should adopt an attitude of gratitude for all we have. Years ago we were on holiday in the Midlands and we met a paraplegic man who gave us a very expensive looking calendar (he had painted the pictures for each month.) I was all ready to pay him and make a donation for it when he told us: “I’d like you to have it: today is the fifth anniversary of waking up from my accident and I am so grateful for life.” He was not focussed on his paralysis, but on his life.



2. God is interested in our lives. Jesus reminds us that not a sparrow falls without God’s knowledge and that the hairs on our heads are numbered. Our lives are in God’s hand and even when our health begins to fail, He alone is the One who can “give and take away.” We should trust Him on this.



3. Every human being is made in the image of God and has an eternity that they will either spend with or without God. We should protect life vigorously and do all we can to prevent and discourage war, genocide, murder, slavery and abuse – and we should share the joy of Christ’s salvation.



4. As we have one Creator, we are equally valuable before Him. Jesus was pointing out an important principle when He indicated that hate and insult are on the pathway to murder. It was hate and the twisted belief that Jews were an “inferior species” that Hitler used to justify the genocide of the Second World War.



So, to conclude: Christians, more than anyone else, should be “Pro-Life” (and I am not only talking about the abortion debate)

Life is a gift from a good God and should be celebrated, protected and lived well.

Anything less is on the pathway to murder.

2011-05-20 – “7.Adultery”


You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus20:14)

I would be hard-pressed to think of any institution that has been more devalued in modern society than the institution of marriage.

Contrary to popular opinion, marriage is not merely a social-societal arrangement.



Good Marriage (as God intended) is a signpost.

It points us on a road of trust, faithfulness, commitment and love and leads toward intimacy. Ultimately it points beyond our human relationships toward God.



Initially when Adam and Eve were in the Garden, they were “naked and felt no shame. (Gen2:25)” They were close to each other and to God and they felt safe. This is true intimacy. After sin entered the world, they did not feel safe, were insecure in who they were and were separated from each other and God.



Throughout the Old Testament God uses marriage and unfaithfulness to point out the relationship between Himself and Israel. He asks Hosea to marry an unfaithful prostitute to illustrate what Israel was doing to God. In the book of Revelation, the Church is described as the Bride and Christ as the Groom. Jesus also makes it clear that we will not be married in heaven.



Human marriage should be a place of faithfulness, trust, love, companionship and intimacy. When it is good, marriage helps us understand how God feels about us and we understand a little bit of what heaven is like.



When marriage is unpleasant or wrecked by adultery, there is serious damage. Not only to the couple’s ability to trust and love again, but also to the signpost that points toward God and His plan for us.

2011-05-24 – “8. Stealing”


You shall not steal.

(Exodus20:15)


When David took Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah and had him killed for his indiscretion, the prophet Nathan came to see him:



“The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:1-7)



This story really highlights heart of the issue around stealing.

To steal is to devalue the person from whom you steal and to consider yourself to “have the right” to take from someone else.



It is a form of playing God.


- It is the strong victimising the weak

- It is the violent terrorising the peaceful

- It is a self-serving scorning of the trust created in a company/group/society.



Whether we rob a bank or make private photocopies at work, we are scorning the trust of society and considering ourselves worthy of the right to do something that, if everyone else did it, would plunge us into chaos.

2011-05-25 – “9.False Testimony”


You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour. (Exodus20:16)

There are two key issues here:

1. We are created in the image of God.

2. Others are created in the image of God.



When we speak falsely of others, we devalue the image of God in them. We obscure it, taint it, deny it and misrepresent it. Whether it is by repeating gossip, by innuendo, by half-truths or by blatant lie the bottom line is that we are devaluing a human being created in God’s image and for whom Christ went to the cross.



Furthermore, each one of us are created in the image of God and are to reflect His nature and character. Truthfulness is at the core of who God is. When we lie, especially about others, we are violating the reflection of God’s image in us. We have become a distorting mirror.




Not many of us could be found guilty of full-blown perjury, but we have all been tempted to tell a story about someone else leaving out certain facts and emphasising others so that they look bad or so that we look good.



God is utterly truthful.

Our relationships with people matter because He made them and died for them.



The ninth commandment is about betraying God’s reflection in us and about desecrating His reflection in others.

2011-05-26 – “10. Wanting”


You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour. (Exodus20:17)

This commandment takes us all the way back to the Garden of Eden where the serpent makes Eve focus on the only thing she couldn’t have. They had access and freedom to everything in the garden but the fruit of one single tree.



Learning to want germinates in a lack of gratitude that grows into chronic dissatisfaction. When we look past all that we have and fixate on what we don’t have (and our neighbour does have) we enter into the dangerous country of coveting.



The problem with coveting is that it robs us of joy. It diminishes our quality of life. It depletes our ability to enjoy what we have.




Bruce Carroll, in his song “Jealousy”, writes this:

|A neighbour came home with another new car [a new donkey!]

|I couldn’t say what was in my heart

|(So) I said, “Good for you”

|I paused to smile but the feeling came:

|God you missed me again by one driveway!

|Jealousy is killing me

|Jealousy is killing me

|It takes a toll on my gratitude – moves me farther away from You

|How many times do I have to learn that I have more than I deserve??

|More than I deserve?



At the heart of it, wanting is a vote of no confidence in the Love and Providence of God and this is a serious state to find ourselves in.



When you find yourself in the grip of wanting, the old advice of counting your blessings is very useful!

2011-05-27 – “Perspective”


1 And God spoke all these words:

2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Exodus20:1-2)


When we started our subsection on the commandments we said that the commandments are not rungs in a ladder of piety that we have to climb ourselves.



Instead we noted that, more than anything, the commands are part of God’s CV: They reveal His character and nature and the way His creation “works”.



No matter how hard we try not to, any prolonged exposure to the Ten Commandments tempts us to fall back into legalism. Mentally we pull out the red pen and score ourselves on each of the commands…

- Did I kill anyone today? Nope (thank goodness)

- Did I rob a bank today? Nope…



We need to go back to the introduction.”I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”



The commandments are not shackles – they are not our jailers.

When we are filled with His Spirit, when the power of the Risen Christ is unleashed in us, when His life flows through us, when we are wearing His yoke then these commands are true of us:




- Not only do we have no other gods, but we honour Him

- Not only do we have no idols, but we have a clear picture of Him

- Not only do we avoid blasphemy, but our speaking makes His name appealing.

- Not only do we do no work on the Sabbath, but we recreate!

- Not only do we obey our parents, we celebrate them.

- Not only do we not murder, we protect life.

- Not only do we not steal or pilfer, but we are faithful stewards of people’s things and time

- Not only do we not gossip and malign, we speak lovingly and truthfully

- Not only do we avoid covetousness, but we are content.



These “positive spins” on the commandments are not things that we pursue in themselves, we find that as we draw closer to God, these qualities emerge. The commandments are the fruit of our freedom in Christ.

2011-06-01 – “The difference”


So Moses went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin–but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (Exodus32:31)

After the Israelites had received the Ten Commandments and the lifestyle instructions that are recorded in Exodus 20-24 they responded fervently: “Everything the LORD has said we will do.”




It didn’t last long!



Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive instructions about the Priesthood and the Tabernacle. He was there for 40 days and nights. While he was in the presence of God, things were going wrong amongst the Israelites – they’d made a golden calf and were revelling around it.



God is very very angry and Moses intercedes – more than once – on behalf of his people. It is our text verse for today that shows us what separates the shepherds from the hirelings – Moses is so committed to them that he binds his fate with theirs.



But there is more: Moses has been in the presence of God for 40 days. He has heard God’s voice, he has seen God’s plans – he has a good idea of what God is like. This idea of what God is like is confirmed a chapter or two later when Moses says: “Show me Your glory” and God hides Moses in a cleft of a rock and reveals Himself with these words: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exo34:6-7)



You see, not only is Moses committed to his people, he is committed to his God – He is convinced that God is able, gracious and willing to forgive. If this is not the case, Moses would rather be blotted out of God’s book.



This is the difference between a shepherd and a hireling: A shepherd protects the sheep and really, truly knows the Great Shepherd. A hireling doesn’t.

2011-06-02 – “Involving Others”


5 From what you have, take an offering for the LORD. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the LORD an offering of gold, silver and bronze; 6 blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; 7 ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; 8 olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; 9 and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.


10 “All who are skilled among you are to come and make everything the LORD has commanded.” (Exodus35:5-10)


While Moses was on the mountain, God had shown him the “blueprint” for the Tabernacle (which was the portable predecessor of the temple.) Now it needed to be built, and it is interesting to see how Moses gets it built.



There are two facets to the building process: Materials and Skills. Moses sketches the vision for the people and they are prompted and empowered by the Spirit to participate.



Have a look at some of the verses that follow:

“Then the whole Israelite community withdrew from Moses’ presence, 21 and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him came and brought an offering to the LORD for the work on the Tent of Meeting, for all its service, and for the sacred garments.” (vv.20-21)



“Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts– 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship. 34 And he has given both him and Oholiab the ability to teach others.” (vv31-34)



The wonderful thing is that as people saw the quality of the work and sensed the teamwork, they were even more motivated and so a little later we read “And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning” (36:4) until eventually Moses had to beg them to stop.



It seems to me that the building of the Tabernacle was more about building the people than about building the tent. They learned generosity and teamwork and the power of God’s working in them.

2011-06-03 – “Blessing”

22 The LORD said to Moses,

Tell Aaron and his sons, `This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

“The LORD bless you and keep you;

the LORD make his face shine upon you

and be gracious to you;

the LORD turn his face toward you

and give you peace.”

“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Numbers6:22-27)


We call this “the Aaronic Blessing.”

There is a story of a group of students who were graduating and as a group they really longed for a sense of God’s blessing on them, but the university they were at allowed no expressions of faith in the graduation ceremony. They made a plan: when it came time for the head student to make his valedictory speech he went to the podium and as he got there, the entire class sneezed together. He looked up at them and slowly said “God BLESS you!”



Here’s a thought: how often do we ask for, wish for and declare the blessing of God on those around us?



Dig around in the original Hebrew of the Aaronic blessing and you’ll find that it is a beautiful poetic prayerful gift:


- It uses the Old Testament Covenant name for God: “Yahweh” (LORD)

- It uses “LORD” three times and each time the blessing is longer.

- “Bless” is common in the OT and conveys God’s goodness and provision.

- “Keep” comes from the word used for “be a watchman”

- “Face” or “Countenance” is about God’s favour, interest and attention which lights our way and gives us grace and peace.



God gives this blessing to Aaron and all his sons. The New Testament calls us all to be a kingdom of priests (Rev1:6) and so we can ask for God’s blessing on those around us!



When I write to people and sometimes when I talk to them, I will often end with “GodBless!” Some consider it old-fashioned, but when we care about people and appreciate them should we not be eager for God to bless them?



Parents especially consider this: How about blessing your children when they go to bed or head off to school? If you think about it, there is nothing more that a parent wants than God’s blessing on their kids.



So why be shy? We’re invited to ask for God’s blessings on people – He even gives us the blessing! Go out and “put God’s name on people” and watch Him bless them!

——————————————–

God bless you as we celebrate the ascension this weekend!

Next week we’ll take a break from Moses Meditations and think about Pentecost.

2011-06-21 – “Humilty and Kingdom Vision”


After a short diversion for Pentecost, we move into the final stretch in our Meditations on the life of Moses….

—————————————-

27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers11:27-29)


This very important interlude takes place at a time when God tells Moses to gather and appoint leaders who can share some of the load in terms of hearing from and speaking for God.



The elders who are with Moses are filled with the Spirit and begin to prophesy, but there are two elders who had not been summoned but who had been chosen by God and so, even though they are not with Moses they begin to prophesy in the camp.



This causes consternation and people come running to Joshua who is Moses trusted aide.



Joshua’s response is so typical:

- “this is out of our control.”


- “we didn’t authorise or sanction this.”

- “it threatens our control over the situation.”

- “who do they think they are?”

- “just imagine the kinds of precedents this will set!”

“STOP THEM!”



Unfortunately these attitudes are very present in the church and particularly amongst the clergy…



But Moses shows incredible wisdom, maturity and humility.



He is no empire-builder

-He’s not a control-freak

-He doesn’t need to be the centre of attention

-He is genuinely glad to see other people being used by and for God.



Moses has Kingdom-Vision: He is interested in God’s Glory and the growth and development of God’s people.

We can learn from his example.

2011-06-22 – “Presumption”


Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the high hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the LORD’s covenant moved from the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah. (Numbers14:44-45)

Numbers 13 and 14 are among the saddest chapters in the history of Israel. They sent 12 spies into the land. The spies reported that the land was good but filled with fierce tribes and giants. Only Joshua and Caleb believed that God’s presence would win the battle for them. The rest of the spies persuaded the people to rebel against God.



God is angry but Moses intercedes for the people. The ten spies continue to sow seeds of rebellion and doubt and are struck down by plague. God decrees that their desert wanderings will continue until the current generation are gone and their children will be ready to enter the promised land.



The Israelites make the mistake of thinking that God doesn’t really mean what He has said and so they decide to pretend that the whole rebellion hadn’t happened and go about entering into the promised land. This means attacking the Amalekites in the hill country even though Moses urgently warns them against this action. Their presumption results in them being trounced by the enemy.



There is a very sobering warning in all of this. We are often guilty of making our own plans and then asking God to bless them. There are many times that we are convinced that we know what God wants to do and we simply charge ahead.



The Israelites, so filled with misplaced religious fervour were doing things in their own strength and did not even notice that the signs of God’s presence (Moses and the Ark) had not accompanied them.



We don’t have the ark of the covenant anymore, but we still have our fellow-believers and wise counsellors. When we doggedly pursue our own plans and the wise fellow-believers in our lives are hesitant, we should be very careful.



Presumption is a trap easily fallen into.

2011-06-23 – “Moses’ Mistook#1″


10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Numbers20:10-12)


The Bible doesn’t sanitise the stories of its heroes. We know of David’s philandering, of Saul’s insecurities, of Peter’s motor-mouth and now we know of Moses’ mistook-mistake.



This is not the first time the Israelites are short of water. This is not the first time they are quarrelling with God. This is not the first time that Moses and Aaron went before God for guidance.



God’s instructions were clear: “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water.”



Previously, when faced with a similar situation Moses had struck the rock with his staff and water had flowed. Now although God had asked him to _speak_ to it, Moses struck it again and said: “must _we_ bring you water out of this rock?” For this one misdemeanour God makes it clear that Moses will not enter the Promised Land.



Why God was displeased with Moses and Aaron?

There are two issues:

The first has to do with the holiness of His Glory.


There is only one God and it is not Moses!

Moses mistook the situation: “I’ve been here before – I know the drill, hit the rock, water flows, everyone’s happy and I’m the good guy!”



God is jealous (in the very best sense of the word) for His glory. When we as human beings begin to take His glory for ourselves and make people look to us instead of to God, we are in grave danger.



God deals firmly with Moses, because Moses was the point-leader. To whom much is given, much is required and when God’s power is abused for personal prestige, disaster will follow.



(We’ll look at the second issue tomorrow)

2011-06-24 – “Moses’ Mistook#2″


10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Numbers20:10-12)


Yesterday we saw that Moses’ first mistake was to take some of the credit that belonged to God for himself. One might want to excuse him: He’s irritated with the people, it feels like he’s “been there done that and got the t-shirt.” He feels that it is up to him and Aaron to show these people a thing or two: “Listen, you rebels, must _we_ bring you water out of this rock?”


But the water wasn’t his and he didn’t put it in the rock!

Moses was presumptuous.



But the second part the mistook Moses made was that his actions demonstrated a lack of trust in God. When this scenario had taken place previously, Moses had struck a rock and water had flowed. This time, however, the instructions are different.



Moses’ actions seem to say: “Hey Lord, I know how its done, I’ve done it before, I’m going with my experience on this one rather than Your instructions.”



Jamie Buckingham wrote a book after retracing the steps of the Exodus with local shepherds who taught him the tricks of the wilderness. In the book he talks about water that gets locked into sandstone shelves/layers in the mountainside. If you know where to tap a rock it can be like popping a cork and water will flow from the rock.



So one can see Moses’ mental cogs whirring: “Oh I know how you do this – just find a similar kind of rock and whack it.” But God wanted to take Moses’ faith to a new level – last time it took a measure of trust to whack the rock. This time speaking to the rock without whacking it would have required new trust.

Moses wasn’t up to the challenge – he didn’t trust God.



We should not be too critical – we keep wanting the “good old days” when God wants to move us into new pastures. Will you trust Him to do something new?

————————————————————–

We’ll break for the school holidays and finish the series on Moses off in term 3.

God bless!

Theo

2011-07-19 – “The Bronze Serpent”


The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. (Numbers21:8-9)

The Israelites started complaining again. They complained bitterly against God and against Moses. Such was their anger and bitterness that they were going to need a wake-up call.



God sent venomous vipers among them and many Israelites died.



This brought about genuine contrition and the people asked Moses to pray that the serpents be removed. The answer to Moses’ prayer was different than they expected…



The snakes were not removed.

Instead, Moses had to make a bronze image of a snake and “lift it up” on a pole. As people were bitten, they could look at the snake and they lived.



It would have been cleaner solution if God had simply removed the snakes, but the cycle of coming across the snakes, being bitten and then being miraculously healed served to remind the people of God’s holy wrath and His amazing grace. It nurtured faith as they looked to the “symbol of their suffering.”



More than a thousand years later, Jesus Christ would become much more than a “symbol of suffering” – He would carry the full weight of human brokenness to the cross of Calvary and be “lifted up” and as we look to Him in faith, we are healed.




Jesus Himself explained this to Nicodemus in John 3:14-15 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”



And, like the Israelites, we keep falling back into brokenness and we must keep looking to Christ to be healed!

2011-07-27 – “The true heart of leadership”


My apologies for the sporadic devotions this last while – it’s been quite busy and I have been fighting off a horrible sinusitus and head-cold – which has meant that I am quite brain-dead in the mornings!

—————————————

Moses said to the LORD, 16 “May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community 17 to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”

(Numbers27:15-17)


If you’ve just been told that you are soon going to die, what would your first thoughts be?



Two verses previously God has told Moses that the time has come to die: `Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go up this mountain in the Abarim range and see the land I have given the Israelites. 13 After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was`


I am amazed and humbled at Moses’ response! He does not spare a thought for himself, but his thoughts go immediately to the Israelites with the concern that they will need a leader.



Moses is concerned that the leader will be someone appointed by God. He describes God as the “God of the spirits of all mankind” which echoes the sentiment we read at the appointment of David: “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”(1Sam16:7) Moses wants the best possible godly leader for the Israelites.



Furthermore, Moses longs for a leader who will lead by example going out and coming in (presumably to the presence of the Lord and then back to the people) and then leading the people like a shepherd. (Remembering that in Palestine the shepherd leads the sheep rather than driving them.)



This is the true heart of leadership – caring about the people you lead. Moses is a great example to us.

2011-07-28 – “Songs and Blessings”


And Moses recited the words of this song from beginning to end in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel: (Deuteronomy31:30)

The end of the book of Numbers details the defeat of the Midianites and takes us to the book of Deuteronomy which contains census stats, regulations, a reiteration of the ten commandments, the final details of dividing the land among the clans and warnings against falling away from the Lord.



Now, at the end of Deuteronomy, the two chapters prior to Moses’ death contain a song that God commands Moses to teach the Israelites and his final priestly blessing over the people.



Both the song (ch.32) and the blessing (ch.33) are too long to reproduce here, but they are both beautiful and haunting.




The song warns the Israelites from falling away and it is sad to say that in many ways, this song became an accurate prediction of the Israelite decay that led to the exile nearly a 1000 years later.



The blessings pronounced here to each of Israel’s tribes resembles those pronounced by Jacob over his sons at the end of Genesis. The blessings abound with a sense of God’s working in the lives and history of His people.



What do we learn from these?

1. Moses is still responsive to God – God teaches him the song and he passes it on faithfully. The song contains painful truths about Israel’s future unfaithfulness. It would have been tempting for Moses to avoid ending on a “down” note – but truth is more important than rhetoric and Moses remains faithful.



2. The blessings on each of the tribes reminds us of Moses’ deep connection with his people and his knowledge of them. His farewell to them reveals both an intimate knowledge of them and a longing for their well-being.



This is a fitting end to life well-lived.

2011-07-29 – “Conclusion”


1 Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land…

5 And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. 6 He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. 7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. 8 The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.


9 Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the LORD had commanded Moses.

10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt–to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy34:1-12)


The passage has been long so here are just a few thoughts:



* By letting Moses see the promised land, God gives him a sense of closure.



* Notice the tenderness of the moment with God Himself burying Moses.



* Notice Moses’ vigour and strength – is this the result of a life of purpose?



* There is a period of grief – it is formal and unhurried. It allows closure and transition.



* We are introduced to Joshua and reminded of the baton that has been passed on.



* Look at the tribute the text gives of Moses: Someone who knew the Lord intimately and as a result, did great wonders.



————————————————————-


This brings us to the end of the “Moses Meditations.”

I hope you have enjoyed reading these eDevs as much as I enjoyed writing them.



It has been very humbling to see how much Moses cared for the Israelites, how passionate he was about God, how he learned to trust God, and how teachable he was.


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