~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Exodus 13:17-15:18 ~ Matthew 21:23-46
Psalm 26:1-12 ~ Proverbs 6:16-19
Old Testament - Today in Exodus chapter 13 verse 17 we read what I found to be an intriguing verse: "When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them on the road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest way from Egypt to the Promised Land. God said, "If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." That last sentence really stood out to me. It makes sense. It was wise for God to do this. But... then I think about our lives today. What if we are faced with a challenging spiritual battle our lives? Will we change our minds about God and return to our "Egypts"? Our Egypts might be the places where we are / were comfortable - enslaved to a sin though we may have been. As I think more about this, I do believe that God is sensitive in our lives, just as he was in the Israelites lives in this verse, as to what we can handle. I do not think he will send us a temptation or a trial greater than we can bear. But I also know that trials do come. And I pray that as the trials come, that we don't go back to our "Egypts"! but that we press on toward the "Promised Land". Below are a couple of maps - both showing the "traditional" routes of the Exodus. There have been some other routes suggested in recent years - if anyone has thoughts/info on these alternate routes, please post up in the Comments below.
In verse 21 we read: "The LORD guided them by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. That way they could travel whether it was day or night." Do you sing in your church the worship song, "Lord you're leading me. With a cloud by day. And in the night. Glow of a burning flame. Everywhere I go I see you. Everywhere I go I see you."? I LOVE this song - and today we read about where this song came from. (I think this song is on one of Michael W Smith's Worship CD's as well) God's presence was made manifest among the Israelites in the cloud by day:
And in the pillar of fire by night:
Imagine seeing these pillars of cloud by day or fire by night and being led by God out of Egypt and in the desert! And then in Exodus chapter 14 we read about the parting of the Red Sea. Great commentary on Exodus chapter 14 and the Red Sea is at bible.org at this link.
In Exodus chapter 15 we read an amazing song that Moses and the Israelites sing to God after passing safely through the Red Sea! Some commentaries say that this is the oldest recorded song in the world! Music played an important part in Israel’s celebration and worship. Does music play an important part in your celebration and worship of God? (I know not everyone is musically inclined, so don’t feel bad if this is not a yes.) In what ways does worship music manifest itself in your life? In church, do you really sing the songs to God and God only? And not worry about what your voice sounds like to your neighbors? In your car, do you ever bust out with some loud and true worship singing to God? How do you typically "sing" your praise to the Lord? (couldn't resist this photo below... :)
The other comment to make on the song in chapter 15 is that this song seems to be a very significant development in the relationship of the people of Israel and God. The people of Israel now seem to really embrace and worship God as their God as we see in verse 2: "The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my victory. He is my God, and I will praise him; he is my father's God, and I will exalt him!" Wow... I love that language. Is God your strength? And your song? Commentary on The Song of the Sea and Exodus chapter 15 is at bible.org at this link.
New Testament - Jesus' teaching in Matthew chapter 21 verses 31 & 32 is convicting: "I assure you, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do. For John the Baptist came and showed you the way to life, and you didn't believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to turn from your sins and believe him." This last sentence is so important for our relationship with Jesus. Have we turned from our sins? Do we believe Jesus' teachings are showing us the way to life? Do we believe that Jesus is who he said he was? Do we believe that Jesus can heal us now and free us now from what enslaves us today? And do we believe that Jesus literally gives us the gift of life everlasting? Below is an image of "The Parable of the Vineyard" by John S. C. Abbott and Jacob Abbott from the Illustrated New Testament (1878):
Verse 42 is so beautiful as Jesus quotes from Psalm 118:22-23: "Then Jesus asked them, "Didn't you ever read this in the Scriptures? `The stone rejected by the builders has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous to see.'" And Jesus - like the son of the farmer in the parable just before this verse - was rejected and murdered. However, Jesus didn't remain dead - he rose on the third day and today he is the cornerstone of Christianity. He is the cornerstone of our churches. And probably the biggest question each of us needs to ask ourselves - Is Jesus the cornerstone of our life? Is he the foundation in our life which anchors and directs everything else we do? If Jesus is the cornerstone of our lives, then indeed as this verse closes with, it is marvelous to see! Commentary on the Story of Two Sons in today's Matthew readings is online at bible.org at this link.
Psalms - Today in Psalm 26 verse 2 we read: "Put me on trial, LORD, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and affections." What a powerful reflection from David - God, test my motives and affections. What are your motives? Why do you do what you do in life? Whom are you doing it all for? What are your affections? Who do you pledge your loyalties to? Who do you give your heart to? Where are you investing your time, treasure and talents? Have you ever asked God to test your motives and affections?
Verse 8 of this Psalm reminds me of my church and I pray it reminds you of your church as well: "I love your sanctuary, LORD, the place where your glory shines." Wow... the place where God's glory shines! Yes, I do believe this happens in our churches - even if we maybe don't notice it sometimes. When we come together as the body of Christ each week, God's glory shines! Will you take a moment to really pay attention to God’s glory shining in your church as you attend a service this upcoming weekend?
Proverbs - Proverbs chapter 6 verses 16 and 19 stand out to me - "There are six things the LORD hates--no, seven things he detests.....a person who sows discord among brothers." This last portion of the list reminds me that each day we can either spread courage/love/positivity or fear/hate/negativity in our lives to those around us. And I realize that we potentially do some/all of these things at various points in our day or lives. But, I do believe that as followers of Jesus we should be striving to only sow unity among brothers and sisters - and not discord. We should be sowing courage - love - positivity in Christ to others. Investing in others. Building others up. Being Jesus to others. And not sowing discord. What type of seeds are you sowing each day in your life to those around you?
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Back to my reflections above on music from the song in Exodus 15 - One thing I personally struggle with is listening to worship / Christian music versus secular music. I grew up listening to all the 80’s / early 90’s bands you could think of. And I have come to realize that many of the lyrics from these bands are really full of hopelessness, existentialism, sexuality, addiction, narcissism, etc. And yet, for some reason I typically still like the tunes... I had one friend tell me that after he became a Christian he literally threw away most of his CD collection - which was all secular CD's. I guess I still sometimes struggle with being in the world and not of the world. What do you think is the line of listening to / enjoying secular music, versus it literally being bad for you? Please let me know your thoughts on secular music - do you listen to it? Do you avoid it? Are you cautious about it in any way? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!