~ 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? What's your protesting all about? 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 liked 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 life today that 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 - and their 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... 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. Also, Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 19 titled "Questions About Marriage and Divorce" are at this link. 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 and Questions 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, this could 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!
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 | January 27, 2007 at 09:11 PM
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.php?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!
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 27, 2007 at 09:11 PM
Pharaoh was considered himself a god and was a powerful man yet both Aaron and Moses went in and out of his presence without being harmed...that should have told both the Israelites and the two brothers something.God had told Moses that He would have to bring several plagues on Egypt as Pharaoh will not listen to him but when it happened Moses seemed to forgotten what God had said will happen.
When it is said and God remembered,it almost looks as if God forgot about Egypt for a while but He told Abraham it would happen...it was at the appointed time that God got Israel out of Egypt....could God have known that the decendants of an elderly couple would be enslaved for 400years and not known that Pharaoh would harden his heart...hardly...Pharaoh was the one who hardened his heart before God turned His back.
On divorce,for some reason did a study on divorce...I say for some reason because I'm not even married.After a while a good friend of mine set me on a date with a really nice guy who was divorced so I knew before hand that my role wasn't to date the guy but to share my testimony and hand him over to my pastor...He asked some painful questions like"if my wife refuses to come back am I doomed to be single all my life"he referred to bible passages that said if a divorced party gets married he commits adultery...This guy isn't 30 yet.Well,now we're praying for God to reunite the family,there's a sweet little 4 year old girl involved and it's heart breaking...I had no easy answers for him,I told him this is one question I can't answer without sounding harsh and I have no personal experience on the subject.
I pray for that those hearts that have been wounded by divorce to be healed and find peace...
God bless you all
Posted by: Anka | January 28, 2007 at 12:49 AM
This is a question, rather than a comment.
In Exodus 5:19-21 it seems to be clear that all the water in Egypt was turned to blood by the Lord (the Nile, streams, canals, buckets, jars, etc.) Then how could the Egyptian magicians do the "same things" in verse 22, if there was no water left?
Posted by: Becky | January 28, 2007 at 01:00 AM
On the subject of divorce...I believe that everyone deserves to be happy, loved and treated well..not have their spirit squashed to where you are nothing but a shell...being made to feel that you can do no right and not have the words I love you said back to you ....I do not believe that is what God would want for is children. I believe marriage is a 50/50 union and that together you make good things come to you...as was said when you marry you become one.
Posted by: Melody | January 28, 2007 at 09:32 AM
I'm reminded of a song I sang at church as a kid (to the tune of Louie, Louie), "Pharoh, Pharoh. ohhh, oh, let my people go! yeah yeah yeah." anyone remember this? haha.
I definately believe so strongly in forgiveness! Its sooo important, in fact if we have unforgiveness in our hearts, we cant truely have a good relationship with our Father, we will always be held back. (nothing is worth jeoprdizing our relationship with our Father!) How bad have we mistreated the Lord and He forgives us...we MUST forgive others. Bitterness in our hearts makes us miserable!!!! Some ppl say, 'its not that easy, you dont know what they did to me!'. Well, I think if God forgives us, we can certainly forgive...not on own OUR power, but through God's!! I have seen the very dark side of life, been treated very badly. I'm speaking from experience..i had HATE in my heart for a long time and it totally poisoned me! When you let go of it, you are sooo free. Maybe you feel that person doesnt 'deserve' forgiveness...well it only eats away at us who hold it in our hearts. Look at us, do I 'deserve' to be forgiven for my sins against God?? and others? NO! But He gives it to me freely. I'm soooo grateful! He will equip you, He really will. There is NOTHING He asks of us that He will not equip us to do, and He askes...no, He commands us to forgive others. That means its not impossible (i know it may feel like it) but its actually our choice. the enemy doesnt want us to forgive others! Theres nothing better then to forgive and obey God...once you break through that barrior, you will be freed from a terrible yoke you've been carrying around, even if you didnt realize you were!
Concerning divorce, never been married, so I cant comment, but I know marriage can be very hard. I just know what the word says, and its between the individuals and the Lord.
I looked up in my study Bible Matthw 12:19 b'cos I'm single and always wonder if God will provide me a husband. Though if He calls me to be single, I will be blessed still: "'let him accept it'...Since all cannot handle it (v.11"All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given") Christ is not enjoining celibacy here. Rather, He makes it a matter entirely of personal choice- except for those who are physcially unable to marry, either through natural causes or because of the violence of other men. Still others may find there are pragmatic reasons not to marry for the good of the kingdom. But in no way did Christ suggest that celibacy is superior to marriage".
I wasnt sure what an eunuch was, so I looked it up: "Testicular failure is the inability of the testicles to produce sperm or male hormones." um, ok. guess that doesnt apply to me :p
Oh yes, love psalm 23! the first scripture i memorized as a child, and still know. i must have read it/recited it a zillion times, but it still means something new to me everytime. thats God speaking to my heart! thats whats sooo awesome about God's word..it NEVER gets old! Its always a new word from Him to us personally! What a great God we have who speaks to us personally! God spoke to me: "my cup overflows". Truely it does. I feel as if I'm overflowing with God's blessings!! (not talking material ones) but the ones that really fufill the deepest desires of my soul! man, being a follower of Christ is sooo awesome. nothing (truely) to lose and everything to gain!
Posted by: Jenny | January 28, 2007 at 10:04 AM
Amsterdam yesterday was very fruitful! We saw the neighbourhood and it's not going to be easy for our pioneers to get this new church started. We went into the center with 3 couples of 2. My husband went with us as well, remember: my husband is not a reborn Christian ... but he's willing to learn about our church, about Christianity, about making choices, etc. He went on the streets with the Pastor from Amsterdam. And guess what? They had 2 people made their choices! Two people were saved yesterday! How about that? What a blessing for my husband to witness that! My husband and I went back to Amsterdam this morning, hoping the two people would come to the church this morning, but they didn't ... hopefully they will tonight ... They made a choice, it's important to work through that now, the first week is a very bumpy ride! Last night we watched the movie 'Final Solution' in church ... wow ... that was very impressive! But back to the evangelism ... it was great to talk to several people. We spread a lot of flyers, told a lot of people about our church and most of them were very open to our story. I noticed that a lot of people were talking on their cellphones walking down the street, that was just to bad, it makes it impossible to approach them. We also talked to a bunch of Christians, they weren't reborn yet, and they weren't ready to make their choice yet. They think the church comes with 'rules and laws'. We try to tell them that it's NOT about the church but about THEIR personal relationship with God! Most of them think that being a good person is enough. "I don't steal, I don't lie, I don't cheat, I'm not a drug-addict". Yes well, that's great ... and sure we do hope they can maintain that for the rest of their lives, but it's just not enough. And that's pretty hard to explain ... A lot of people don't know why Jesus died on the cross, it's not easy to explain everything to a person who doesn't know Jesus ... I love to try and explain it to them! It gives me a chance to share my story with them! I learn a lot from days like this! We're going back to Amsterdam on the 10th of February. Then we'll sing and preach on the streets ...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can't wait! It's such a blessing I get this chance!
Reading todays verses make me happy! Especially Psalm 23 ...sigh ... it's so wonderful! I have this on a little card. I read it every day ... it makes me smile, it makes me feel save, it makes me happy! Especially verse 6 "Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever".
Praise the Lord, our heavenly Father!
Posted by: Mae | January 28, 2007 at 10:05 AM
The Forgiveness spoken of in chapter 18 is the thing that is lacking in nineteen that leads to divorce.
I don’t think that we can fully forgive anyone until we get the full understanding of what it not only means to have God’s forgiveness but we also must understand the gravity of our own personal sins once we have been forgiven. We are the “servant” who has begged the master to have a multi-million/billion dollar debt wiped out. No human being: friend, relative or even enemy could ever be in debt to us the way we were indebted to God. Compared to the number of drops of water that makes up the volume of water in all the oceans, what others have done to us is a drop in the bucket. That is I believe what Jesus was teaching in Matthew 18. The servant either did not or would not understand the incredible mercy he had received from the Master; so, because he devalued what he had received from the Master, he overestimated the debt his co-worker/servant “owed” him; so, because he devalued what he had received from the Master, he overestimated the debt his co-worker/servant “owed” him.
Forgiveness is an act of mercy; it is a gift. Since a gift is not earned, mercy must be offered unconditionally but one seeking the mercy can never demand it then it ceases to be a gift; however, you can ask for it.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: (Matthew 7:7 KJVR)
Blessed are the merciful, because they will be shown mercy.
(Matthew 5:7 HCSB)
Divorce comes about because either both or one of the parties joined in a covenant relationship fails to forgive either the offended party or themselves. When one of the partners declares, “I’ve fallen out of love,” or, “I’ve outgrown this relationship,” They, more than likely have become offended by their choice in a partner and are angry that the person agreed or accepted the marriage proposal. Instead of trying, to work it out by doing some self-examination they blame the other. No matter what the excuse (A skin of reason stuffed with a lie—heard from Bible-on-Radio).
Grace and peace,
Posted by: Ramona | January 28, 2007 at 11:52 AM
Today I was truly encouraged by Psalm 23 "He leads me beside quiet waters, he RESTORES my soul". Coh I need that so desperately - someone I thought was my friend said some pretty horrid things to me today and I feel so battered down. Thank you God that you are restoring my soul right now!
Posted by: | January 28, 2007 at 03:46 PM
I was just reading some of the comments regarding the hardening of Pharoahs heart. My husband and I are taking a Perspectives course and its basis is that God is a missionary God and everything in the bible comes down to God's purpose in creating man and woman...to worship Him. With this perspective, many of the old testament stories make better sense. God is making himself known and you have to admit, there wouldn't have been an Israelite or Egyptian alive that could deny God after what happened in the plagues. If Pharoah would have given in earlier, some might not have recognized God as the all powerful God that he is. This story is so powerful that it is retold in Islamic, Jewish, and Christian cultures. Looking back it is easy for me to see why God would harden Pharoah's heart. Look at how God glorified Himself in this case. Of course, God's ultimate glorification came when he sent his one and only Son to earth in order to remove our separation from God and remove sin's hold on us. Reading the old and new testament like this is showing me that the bible is written with everything we need to know to make a decision to repent of our sinful lifestyle and learn to follow Jesus Christ by obedience...and that means to carry out God's purpose..bring all nations under God's loving wings to worship Him and deny all other gods. That starts with our neighbors and ends with the untouched groups of people that have never heard the name of Jesus.
Posted by: Amber Umsted | January 29, 2007 at 11:08 AM
Mae, that's so great that your husband got to witness that :-)
I was thankful to read Psalm 23 today, because I have been needing some comforting. I've been having a hard time with school, and I've been second guessing myself everyday as to whether teaching is really what I should be doing. I know that it is, and that I love working with kids, but I can't wait to have my own someday :-) I guess this goes back to not protesting what God is calling me to do, which is to teach - for now, then hopefully God will call me towards being a good wife and a good mom, because that's what I really want to do :-)
Posted by: Erin | January 30, 2007 at 09:28 AM