~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Exodus 4:1-5:21 ~ Matthew 18:1-20
Psalm 22:19-31 ~ Proverbs 5:15-21
Old Testament - Today in Exodus chapter 4 we read about God discussing with Moses from the burning bush how Moses will lead the Israelites out of Egypt! Below is a portrait by Guy Rowe of Moses having this conversation with God before the burning bush:
Moses has a classic line to God in Chapter 4 verse 10: “Moses said to the LORD , "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." I think what is classic about this line is that probably many of us have some sort of line similar to this one that we say to God when God is calling us to do something big for His Kingdom. Or maybe even if it is something medium-sized or small God is calling us to, we probably have some pretty good excuses. "Why me God?" "I’m too young." I’m too old." "I’m too busy." "I’m not that smart." "I’m not that talented". And I’m sure our list of excuses could go on. BUT – check out what God says to Moses in verse 12: "Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." Wow. Is there an area of your life where God is calling you to move forward? Maybe calling you to some Kingdom work? And are you making excuses? Will you leave those excuses behind? Do you realize that God will help you do whatever you need to do? Do you realize that God will teach you what to do as you go? You may not know exactly what to do right now – but if you move forward, do you believe God will show up and help you accomplish the task? Will you go? Now? Below is a wonderful stained glass image of God in the burning bush telling Moses to "now go"!
Verses 24 through 26 probably raised some questions for you today... :) "On the journey, when Moses and his family had stopped for the night, the LORD confronted Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah, his wife, took a flint knife and circumcised her son....After that, the LORD left him alone." The obvious question being, why was God about to kill Moses? Didn't God just call Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt? Well, yes he did. Commentaries I read suggest that the primary issue here was an issue of obedience. Moses had not circumcised his son, which was a requirement of God's covenant with Israel from Genesis chapter 17 - you'll recall Abraham and his household all getting circumcised in that 1 day. So, Moses - and actually Zipporah his wife performed the task of the covenant - had to circumcise his son before God would let Moses go forward to deliver God's people out of Egypt. Don't you like it when the Bible throws in some quick curveballs like this? :) Bible.org's commentary on Exodus chapter 4 is at this link - scroll down a bit. Below is an image from the Sistine Chapel of Zipporah and her and Moses' two sons Gershom and Eliezer:
I like Exodus chapter 5 verse 1, which builds upon some of our readings in chapter 4: "After this presentation to Israel's leaders, Moses and Aaron went to see Pharaoh." What I like about this is that there was Moses & Aaron going to see Pharaoh - the 2 of them. This reminds me of Jesus sending out the disciples in pairs. Sometimes in life it seems like we can accomplish more, or stay on task better, if we are partnered with someone else. It's sometimes tough to do things on our own. I think sometimes we want to make ourselves out to be Lone Rangers - thinking that we can shoulder the weight of the world on our own. But... we can't. First and foremost we need to be in relationship with God through Jesus. Secondly, in relationship with our family. Thirdly, relationship with our community - as we saw Moses and Aaron spoke with the Hebrew leaders at the end of chapter 4. And then... we are ready to take on Pharaoh! Then, we are ready to take on the world! Yeah, sure, on rare occasions God will call us to pull off Kingdom tasks on our own - but... 9 times out of 10, I think you are going to need brothers and sisters in Christ to help you make it. Currently, are you in a community, a church, with brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you know who your Aaron is??? Below is a painting by James Tissot of Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh -
New Testament - Jesus' teaching in Matthew chapter 18 verses 3 & 4 are something for each of us to consider: ""I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven." I find it interesting the order of the words - first, turn from your sin. THEN - after turning from your sins - become as little children. It seems that we cannot become humble as children without first turning from our sins. This makes sense if you think about it. If you are still living in sin, how can you become humble like a child? You must first repent of the sin before moving toward humility. I think this teaching is a tough one in our modern age. It doesn't sound quite right... become humble like a child? Why?? But, there is so much wisdom in it. Do you want to become humble like a child? Will you ask God to show you how to do this in your life?
Verses 19 & 20 are awesome: "I also tell you this: If two of you agree down here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am there among them." Again, these verses remind me of the importance of being in community with other believers regularly. The importance of church. And not just showing up to church on Sundays, but really investing in your church. Serving. Giving financially. Being part of a small group. Doing life together with others. Being the body of Christ. I will admit that there have been periods of my life where I really felt like I did not need the church. That I did not need to be in community. These have turned out to be lonely or hurried or stressful seasons when I look back on them! I realize now more than ever that I need the church. I love my church. I love everyone in my church - warts and faults and all - and I believe they love me in return, warts and faults and all. How about you? Do you have a church that you love? Do you have a community of believers that you love and that loves you? If not, will you pray to God to lead you to such a community? Do you believe that Christian community is important for you? (Please know that when I say church I am speaking very broadly of the body of Christ and all the various ways it manifest itself as church. For example, I have many friends who are part of the growing house church movement, which is a wonderful way to do church for many folks. For others it's the mega-church and for others the mainline church, and this list of examples of church could go on and on...)
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 18 titled "Life Under Kingdom Authority" is at this link.
Psalms - Okay, since I'm going off on my church soapbox today :), I'll continue the theme here. What's one good reason to go to church at all? Check out Psalm 22 verse 22: "Then I will declare the wonder of your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among all your people." Praising God with other brothers and sisters through worship, tithing, learning, serving and being in community in church is a great reason to go to church! To declare the wonder of God's name! To praise God among all his people. Wow... yes... this is church!
Proverbs - Proverbs 5 verses 16 & 17 are powerful true Sex Education verses: "Why spill the water of your springs in public, having sex with just anyone? You should reserve it for yourselves. Don't share it with strangers." I like this a lot. Is this something we can teach young adults today? Is this something we can teach ourselves? Don't have sex with just anyone - it is degrading to you. Don't share something so holy as sex with just anyone. Save this holy bond for your spouse. I once heard a powerful sermon by John Ortberg at Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago. And John was preaching on "Don't Quench the Spirit". And it was a powerful sermon on how we are so blessed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives as followers of Jesus. And yet, we can quench, temporarily, the power of the Spirit in our life when we sin. It is basically like turning our back on God when we sin. And then we need to turn our faces forward again toward God in repentance. And while we are sinning and turning our back on God, we have effectively quenched the Spirit. And as I heard this sermon, I realized that sexual sin is one sure-fire quick way to quench the spirit. We degrade ourselves through sexual sin and I believe we quench the spirit. I don't know if this line of thinking will help you at all if you are struggling with sexual sin. But, it helps me. It helps me to realize that the quick little temporary highs we think we might get off sexual sin are so not worth it. What is worth quenching the Spirit in our life?? Is sexual sin? Nope... you know it's not. Living fully in communion with God and with the Holy Spirit is one of the most amazing things we can possibly experience this side of heaven. Will you please, please, no longer quench the Spirit for the cheap lies sexual sins sells?
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: With my thoughts above on the serious topic of sexual sin - does anyone have any resources, books, websites, that you can recommend to folks that are struggling with sexual temptation or sin? Have you seen people in your life be enslaved to sexual sin? Hopefully you have also seen people also be freed from that enslavement through Jesus? Do you think that sexual sin - lust, pornography, adultery, etc. - is a rampant issue in our society today? Do you think it's worse now than the past? Or do you think sexual sin has always been an issue in the past and will be until Jesus returns again? (Bob Deffinbaugh with bible.org's essay on "Sex and the Spiritual Christian" based on 1 Corinthians 7 is at this link.) Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!