~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Exodus 5:22-7:25 ~ Matthew 18:21-19:12
Psalm 23:1-6 ~ Proverbs 5:22-23
Old Testament - Exodus Chapter 5 verse 22 starts off our readings today with what seems to be an awfully bold question / complaint from Moses to God - "So Moses went back to the LORD and protested, "Why have you mistreated your own people like this, Lord? Why did you send me? Since I gave Pharaoh your message, he has been even more brutal to your people. You have not even begun to rescue them!"" That first question initially made me wince - obviously God was not mistreating his own people - Pharaoh and the foremen were. I don't fault Moses for this question, since he saw the Israelites suffering so much - and God didn't seem to fault Moses either as we see in the beginning of chapter 6 he tells Moses what he is going to do to Pharaoh - and he doesn't address Moses question / complaint. I think Moses was probably really instead trying to ask God what he gets at in the last sentence - why haven't you started your rescue of your people? Then, the second question in verse 22 above takes us back to Moses' words to God at the burning bush near Midian when God first called Moses to this task - "why me??" This second question kind of made me smile... I guess because I've probably asked this question of God a lot of times in my life in various forms - why are you asking me to do this? Why not pick someone else? Don't I have enough going on? How am I going to pull this off? Etc. Etc.... Etc.... any of these questions sound familiar to you? :) And yet, even in the midst of this protesting, God is still going to use Moses in a big way for his kingdom purposes. I pray he will still use me in the midst of my protesting. Do you want God to still use you in the midst of your protesting? Will you put your protest sign down now before God?
At the end of Exodus chapter 6 today we come across a short genealogy - only 3 of Jacob/Israel's son's are listed - as the third son, Levi, brings us to Aaron and Moses. I like coming across this genealogy in today's readings. It's kind of a brief interlude in the "action" of the narrative. It's kind of like God saying to us - pay attention! These 2 guys, Aaron and Moses were real! Here's their real genealogy. This is a real factual history. And maybe this genealogy helps remind us of the reality of this book of Exodus before we soon get into the plagues... Below is an image of Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh by an unknown Netherlands or French artist from the mid-16th century - (image courtesy of metmuseum.org)
In Exodus chapter 7 we read about Aaron's staff becoming a snake and the plague of blood. It is interesting that Pharaoh's wise men & magicians did the same thing as these miracles with their "secret arts." However, it's obvious that what the magicians did was not as powerful as what God did - because God's snake wins! :) And, it is indeed ironic that the magicians turning water to blood would really only make matters worse for the Egyptians. I read commentaries that suggested the magicians were either coming up with illusions or potentially tapping into dark / demonic forces to make their tricks come to fruition. Check out tons more great info on the nature of the plagues, the magicians tricks, the pattern of the plagues and the point of the plagues in Bob Deffinbaugh's essay titled "The Finger of God" at bible.org at this link. This is worth the read before we dive into all the plagues over the next few days! Below is an image of the plague of blood along the river Nile -
New Testament - Today in Matthew chapter 18 we read about Jesus' strong teaching on the need for us to forgive others in our life. And not just to forgive someone once... but many many many times. Why? Because God has been so gracious to us - he has forgiven us for our many many many sins through our faith in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. If God has forgiven us many times over - who are we to not forgive others many times over as well? Are we better than God? :) We all know the answer to this one. No. But, we are all called to forgive as gracefully as God has forgiven us. We are to forgive, just as we have been forgiven. Is there someone in your that life you need to forgive? Will you? Below is the famous painting by Thomas Blackshear II simply titled "Forgiven" -
In Matthew 19 we read a discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees on divorce. The context of this discussion basically revolved around 2 Jewish schools - Shammai and Hillel - differing viewpoints in Jesus' day on Deuteronomy 24 verses 1-4 - "If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD . Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance." From Zondervan's NIV Study Bible commentary - The Shammai school held that "something indecent" from verse 1 above meant "marital unfaithfulness" - the only allowable cause for divorce. Hillel emphasized to the preceding clause, "who becomes displeasing to him" in verse 1 above - they would allow for a man to divorce his wife for anything she did that he disliked. Jesus in the midst of these 2 viewpoints seems to take to the side of Shammai - but, only after first pointing back to God's original ideal for marriage. So... there you have the context. What does that mean for us today? I honestly will say that I don't know. I do know that many folks participating in this blog are divorced. And many are married. And many are single. So... I guess I'd encourage you to read more or study more about the topic of divorce if you feel God is calling you to this. I do believe in God's grace in each of our lives and I believe in Jesus... I don't have enough theological wisdom to add much more to this topic today... Bible.org does have a pretty long overview of Marriage, Abortion and Divorce at this link - I haven't read it all, so I can't say that I agree with everything at this link... but, if you're interested in diving more into this topic you may want to read. No matter what happens in our life - marriage, divorce, health, sickness - we always have One whose love will never fail us -
Psalms - Psalm 23! What a Psalm!! This is the first Psalm for sure that I ever really read and was comforted by without a doubt. Psalm 23 is a profession of joyful trust in God as the good Shepherd-King by David. I like The Message's take on Psalm 23 at this link. Bible.org has a wonderful commentary on Psalm 23 titled "A Psalm that calms the soul" at this link.
Proverbs - Proverbs chapter 5 verses 22 & 23 are just amazing wisdom for each of us of why we should FLEE from sin... don't entertain it at all..... "An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his incredible folly." Please know that if for some reason you are caught in the ropes of sin, please know that Jesus can truly set you free. Please pray for this freedom in Christ. Only in Christ are we truly set free.... please seek this freedom in Christ with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Don't die for lack of self-control. Don't be lost because of the folly of sin. Please accept the free gift that Jesus offers you this very day.
Comments from you & Question of the Day - Based on the topic of divorce that comes up in today's Matthew readings, please do share your wisdom / thoughts / books / websites / other resources on this topic. Please be graceful in your remarks as many of our participants have gone through a divorce. If you yourself have been through a divorce, and are willing to share your learnings / experiences from it with everyone, that would be beneficial perhaps to some others who might read your comments. But I can understand if it's too much to post up publicly thoughts on this topic in this type of forum. Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
I recently broke up with my christian boyfriend because as far as I could tell,he had no vision.I believed God placed us on earth for a higher purpose than to make sure your family is comfortable and can afford family vacactions.It seemed he worried more about money than his spiritual life.After we broke up,I listened to a teaching on how wives are called to be helpers,how God had given Adam his mission first(Gen 2:15...take care of the Garden..)then gave him a helper...how a wife should submit to hers husbands mission(SUBmission).So marriage is not just about companionship it's also about working together to fulfil your God given mission on earth.
I think God doesn't like divorce because of the pain it inflicts on the people involved...especially the children who feel it's their fault...
God bless you all
Posted by: anka | January 28, 2006 at 02:04 AM
We are a people of comfort and status quo. No matter how miserable we are in a comfortable place, we find comfort in our misery. I believe the plagues and Pharaoh’s stubbornness were needed to challenge the Egyptians’ gods but also to set up both Egypt and Israel to disengage from each other. Israel had to become a stench in the nostrils of Egypt and Israel needed to become reacquainted with the power of their God. God was making sure bridges were being burned.
Being oppressed and or being in slavery destroys self-initiative because a hopelessness sets in and then one develops a sick heart (Proverbs 13:12). When your heart is sick, blood circulation is hindered and the “body” doesn’t “act” the way it is suppose to. So, not only was it necessary to bring Egypt to her knees, Israel had to move from the mindset of a slave to one of freedom. Freedom isn’t free and requires a purchase price of responsible mind. But freedom means you become aware of your value to yourself, to others and most definitely your value to God.
Moving from welfare/dole, being enslaved or dependent on the government requires one to believe that there are gifts, talents, and abilities inside that can make one sufficient. Many times that means one has to get in touch with God to discover the gift God has placed within and how to use that gift in the market place. I know about moving from welfare to work and what it takes to cross that divide, courage. However, usually, that courage comes by way of crises.
Grace and peace,
Posted by: Ramona | January 28, 2006 at 05:05 AM
In Exodus 4:21 God told Moses that he was going to harden Pharaohs heart, so doesn't that mean it is Gods fault that Pharaoh made the Israelites life worse and also that all the plagues had to happen. The thought that God hardening Pharaohs heart really bothers me cause it takes away the ideal of a free will and also that children were killed and it was basically set up by God.
Posted by: Joe Mangione | January 28, 2006 at 10:42 AM
Joe - very good question! I meant to post up about this earlier, as I know others are having this question come up too.
Paul in Romans gets at this in Romans 9:14-21, below. (please don't see this as a harsh answer to you personally to your question - just Scripture interpreting Scripture here... :)
"What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?"
Also, Bible.org gets at this point at this link - http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=218 Surf down to "The Permissive Will of God" section. A brief excerpt is below here -
"Other parts of God’s plan He permits. The permissive will of God embraces only the moral features that are evil or contrary to His desired will. Though God does not actively promote this aspect of His sovereign will, He uses them to accomplish His purposes, since He knows before hand just how every person will respond to every possible situation, and decreed to allow it or not. Regardless, God always places the responsibility for these acts and their results with men or angels, as in the case of the fall of Satan and then of man (Acts 14:16; Ps. 78:29; Isa. 10:5-14; Acts 2:23; Rom. 1:18-32). A classic example of this is perhaps the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in the book of Exodus.
Ten times it is said that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34; 13:15), and 10 times that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17). Paul uses this as an example of the inscrutable will of God and of His mercy toward men (Rom. 9:14-18). Seven times Pharaoh hardened his own heart before God first hardened it, though the prediction that God would do it preceded all.
The fact that God permits these things does not make them less certain, nor remove them from the sovereign plan of God, but it does remove the responsibility for the sinful acts of men and fallen angels from God"
Hope this helps? Thanks for asking this question / bringing up this point that I know others are thinking about too!
Posted by: Mike | January 28, 2006 at 11:11 AM
A few other websites that I found helpful surround this question are at these links (Please know that I may not personally agree w/ everything you read in these websites, but thought that they had some good food for thought at various points) -
Posted by: Mike | January 28, 2006 at 11:32 AM
Re: free will
I really struggled with this concept after salvation. I have come to like Stephen Hawkings attributed quote:
'Free will or predestination? (pause) Predestination. But since we do not know the path or the outcome, it may as well be free will!'
I believe God is sovereign, so only he has "absolute free will". that means by defintion man must have something less. But what? the following excerpt with link at bottom attempts to explore this issue. I realize everyone will not agree - I just offer it up for thought and those who have not thought about the issue.
"In Biblical theology, the terms free will and volition are NOT synonymous, but convey related ideas. Unless misused, the term free will communicates a sense of ultimate or absolute freedom, whereas volition simply implies the power of choice. For example, a prisoner locked in a 10x10 prison cell would not be considered free, but could still exercise the choice to either lay down, sit, or stand, etc. The individual has certainly lost a large portion of his freedom, but he has not been stripped of his volition. Thus the concept of freedom is not fixed, but must carry the added sense of degree. It is this need to recognize the degrees of freedom that has led theologians to differentiate free will from volition, and thus it is erroneous to characterize the issue in terms of black and white-- i.e., having "free will" or being a "puppet"....."
Posted by: John | January 28, 2006 at 03:09 PM
re: killing children
If you look at it from an eternity concept instead of an earth lifetime, it is actually a good thing.
Egyptians were pagans. Doubtful that any of those children would have grown up to be folllowers of Jehovah. Most theologians agree that children dying before the age of reason end up in heaven. The comparison is: getting to live 60-80 more years here on earth and then be condemned forever, or die young and spend eternity in heaven.
Regardless, as Mike said - it is God's call. HE is Soverign.
Posted by: John | January 28, 2006 at 03:18 PM
Mike's link in his post brings up the question of evil and why does God allow it to exist. The article touches on something I heard, but does not elaborate.
When Satan chose to rebel, I agree with Erwin Lutzer's conjecture, he "...miscalculated both the consequences of his decision and God's reaction to it."
Think about it. Up to that point in time, Lucifer had seen nothing but God's good side and his glory. Which brings me back to: why allow evil? God could certainly have just annihalated Lucifer.
If the Creation and mankind is all about God's glory, then God's full glory can not be shown unless there is evil.
The qualities of mercy and grace, were not neccessary before evil existed. God's mercy and grace to mankind is abundant and bountiful. God's glory is magnified by these qualities.
Justice and righteousness did not exist before evil came into being. God's perfect judgement and righteousness toward sinners (people who chose to sin) glorifies his name.
Finally Good cannot annihilate and triumph over evil unless evil existed.
God's throwing of satan and his minions into the pit of fire and subsequent judgement of all non-believers will show his complete and total triumph over evil and glorify his name.
It all happens in God's time and according to his will.
Posted by: John | January 28, 2006 at 03:48 PM
I wanted to share what I thought the hardening of Pharoahs' heart was about and perhaps why it took so many unfavorable outcomes for Moses.
It looks like a "public" witnessing between the Word of God and Pharoah's own sorcerers and magicians being able to duplicate the same which Moses commanded. But all for the sake of the final commands which none of them could perform. Thus leading Pharoah in the end to dismiss everyone least they themselves all be destroyed: livestock, food supply and the Pharoah. I don't believe he was even thinking of his own people......just himself at the final hour.
Posted by: Mary Chinault | January 28, 2006 at 10:41 PM
Okay, I am perhaps the only person who is "stuck" on the concept of a "talking" serpent in the Garden of Eden. I don't think any of the other animals talked, did they???
Was this a test (the serpent) which God himself put before Adam and Eve??? I don't believe there is any reference to maybe another being who God created to test Adam and Eve and then cast him down as a "serpent" after the 1st original sin. Inquisite and one confused mind wants to know. I hope this isn't one of those questions I am going to regret asking after seeing the answer.........
Posted by: Mary Chinault | January 28, 2006 at 10:50 PM
In Exodus 10:12 is the statement "I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt" the first time there is an actual reference to "other gods"???
Posted by: Mary Chinault | January 28, 2006 at 10:57 PM
Re: talking serpent
Bullinger in "The Companion Bible" has an extensive appendix on "The Serpent of Genesis 3".
His premise is the Hebrew word rendered "serpent" is Nachash - with a root meaning of "to shine" and means "shining one". From 2Cor11:14 Satan is referred to as the "angel of light", so Bullinger thinks Eve ran across the "angel of light" (Lucifer) in the garden.
Since Adam and Eve had communed with God, Eve would not be afraid of a glorious, attractive, shining being - who was articulate and obviously of a higher created order than other garden inhabitants.
The dialouge stays the same, the Apple is eaten, and mankind is changed forever.
God's curses on the serpent are explained as a type of figure of speech called Hypocatastasis or "implication". Just a real picture resemblance to strike home the punishment awaiting Lucifer. Later on, the snake would pick up the name "Nachash" as it was a shiny creature and its resemblance to the curses of Satan.
Quick and dirty summary from a very long appendix. Bullinger is huge on linguistics, and I find some charm and more than a little truth in his interpretation.
This is offered as an alternate explanation - albeit not a very widespread interpretation of scripture.
Posted by: John | January 29, 2006 at 12:01 AM
re: other gods
"In Exodus 10:12 is the statement "I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt" the first time there is an actual reference to "other gods"???"
Gen 31:30 and 31:32 and 35:2 and 35:4
I guess technically Satan referred to "gods" in Gen 3:5
Posted by: John | January 29, 2006 at 12:28 AM