~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Exodus 10:1-12:13 ~ Matthew 20:1-28
Psalm 25:1-15 ~ Proverbs 6:6-11
Old Testament - In Exodus chapter 10 today we read about the Plague of Locusts! In ancient times locust plagues were greatly feared and were often considered to be a sign of divine judgment.
Next up is the plague of darkness. Some Biblical commentaries have found Pharaoh's statement to Moses to be quite appropriate and ironic that he said this during the plague of darkness in 10:28: "The day you see my face you will die." Apparently Moses couldn't quite fully see Pharaoh's face during the plague of darkness? Makes sense to me. Commentaries have also suggested that this verse was a death threat to Moses, and that this death threat was responded to with the coming plague on the firstborns of Egypt, including Pharaoh's son. Below is an image of the plague of darkness:
In Exodus chapter 11 we read in verses 4 & 5: "So Moses announced to Pharaoh, "This is what the LORD says: About midnight I will pass through Egypt. All the firstborn sons will die in every family in Egypt, from the oldest son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the oldest son of his lowliest slave. Even the firstborn of the animals will die." And an appropriate image for this announcement might be this - (except for the fact that they were in the midst of the plague of darkness... so this image should have the lights turned off. Oh well... :)
Today we read in Exodus chapter 12 about God giving Moses and Aaron instructions on the First Passover. Verse 2 stands out: "From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you." Here we see that God is actually instituting a new religious calendar for the Hebrews with the month that Passover is in being the first month of the calendar year. This month is in the March-April spring timeframe and is called Abib or Nisan in Hebrew. The feasts that were and are celebrated in this 1st month were - Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits. Here is a very interesting note on the Jewish calendar from Zondervan's NIV Study Bible - "In the ancient Near East, new year festivals normally coincided with the new season of life in nature. The designation of this month as Israel's religious New Year reminded Israel that its life as the people of God was grounded in God's redemptive act in the Exodus... Israel's agricultural calendar began in the fall, and during the monarchy it dominated the nation's civil calendar. Both calendars (civil and religious) existed side by side until after the exile. Judaism today uses only the calendar that begins in the fall." Below is an image of the Jewish religious calendar:
The significance of Passover was that God was introducing the concept of a sacrifice or a substitute for a life. The lamb was sacrificed as a substitute for the Hebrews first-born sons. The blood of the lamb was placed on the doorposts as a sign that the household had sacrificed an innocent life - the lamb. By the blood of the unblemished/perfect lamb, the household was protected from death. This is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is the sacrificial lamb for us. He was a substitute for us and our sins. He was an innocent unblemished/perfect lamb - sinless. By Jesus' blood, we are protected from eternal death. Do you see the parallels between Passover and Jesus' death on the cross?
Exodus chapter 12 verse 11 is of note: "Wear your traveling clothes as you eat this meal, as though prepared for a long journey. Wear your sandals, and carry your walking sticks in your hands. Eat the food quickly, for this is the LORD's Passover." By wearing their traveling clothes, the Hebrews were faithfully acknowledging God's Word that they would very soon be freed from slavery and bondage in Egypt. The Exodus would soon begin! And the traveling clothes signified that the Hebrews were ready for the journey! How about us today? Do you think that God may still call us on journeys today? Do you think that God might be calling you on a journey here in 2007? If so, will you be ready for the call? Will you wear your "traveling clothes", so that when the "Exodus" comes, you are ready for it? Below is a beautiful piece of contemporary Jewish art showing the Israelites wearing their traveling clothes for the Exodus!
New Testament - Matthew chapter 20's parable of the vineyard workers is one that I have at times had challenges with. I, like the workers who labored all day, would think - "that's not fair!" Well.... but then I came to realize that I believe this story is a parable of Grace. God's grace. And you know what - God's grace is not "fair." And thank God for this being so! God's grace is so powerful and all-encompassing and life-giving and healing and saving. And God's grace is offered to me. And to you. And to our neighbors. And to everyone. God's grace is offered to people that have sinned against God. Me. You. Our Neighbors. Everyone. God's grace is offered to people who become Christians early in their lives and live wonderfully giving lives. And God's grace is offered to people who become Christians on their deathbed after living destructive lives, but who finally repent and surrender to God. God's grace is given freely. Like these workers in this story, we may accept God's grace at different points in the "day" of our life. Though, of course, some never do ultimately accept God's grace and there is grave risk as the day grows longer... How about you? What part of the "day" are you in? Have you accepted God's gift of grace? Will you do so today? While it is still "today" for you? Below is an oil painting by Rembrandt from 1637 of "The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard":
Jesus' teaching in Matthew 20 verse 16 has always been convicting to me: "And so it is, that many who are first now will be last then; and those who are last now will be first then." I see the wisdom in this verse... but yet, I still think that I try to be "first" in many ways in my life. I don't like being "last". I like being honored. I like being the star. I don't like being the servant. I don't like to be the guy supporting the star. And yet, Jesus is calling us to be last. To serve others. To let others go first. How about you? Are you trying to be "first" in your life? Or do you see the eternal wisdom in being "last"? Continuing this thought of serving others - below is a painting from 1856 by British painter Ford Maddox Brown of "Christ Washing St. Peter's Feet":
As this chapter proceeds we read about Jesus prophesying his own death and resurrection. And then, we see Jesus prophesy about the end of James & John's life when their mother and they ask to sit at Jesus' right & left in heaven. Check out verses 22 & 23: ""You don't know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of sorrow I am about to drink?" "Oh yes," they replied, "we are able!" "You will indeed drink from it," he told them." You will indeed drink from it... James ended his life being martyred for his faith in Jesus. And John ended his life in exile on the island of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation. And I wonder again about us today... sometimes we hear about the "health, wealth and prosperity gospel", and think that's what we've signed up for as Christians. But... do you think that it might be possible that at some point in your life that you might be called to drink from the bitter cup of sorrow that Jesus drank from? If you are called to drink from that bitter cup, will you indeed drink from it? Below is a painting by Flemish artist Pieter van Mol from the early 17th century of "Jesus with the cup":
The last 10 words of verse 28 remind me of the Passover Lamb / Jesus parallels discussed above in this post: "For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for many." Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for many. Do you believe that Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for you?
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew chapter 20 titled "Workers in the Vineyard" is at this link.
Psalms - Psalm 25 has some amazing verses today! I think I could write some reflections and questions on each of the verses today... Maybe a good thing for each of us to do is to re-read this Psalm today and really reflect on what the verses are saying to our hearts. David wrote this Psalm as a prayer for God's mercies when he was suffering affliction for his sins and when enemies were seizing this occasion to attack him. It's a very penitential Psalm. One that we might need to pray to God from time to time as David did. I do like verse 5 a lot and I believe it will speak to each of you going through the One Year Bible this year - "Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you." Do you believe that reading God's Word each day is allowing you to be led by God's truth? Are you being taught each day? Then - that last sentence in verse 5 is amazing. I cannot honestly say that all day long I put my hope in God. I pray that I do... but I think sometimes I drift away from putting my hope in God and I put my hope in myself - or maybe even sometimes I lose hope! I get discouraged about a situation. I get stressed. I worry. If we put our hope all day long in God, do you think we would get discouraged, stressed, or worried? I don't think we would...
Psalm 25 verse 15 really stood out to me today - "My eyes are always looking to the LORD for help, for he alone can rescue me from the traps of my enemies." I have come to realize more and more lately that the Enemy is indeed constantly setting traps for us. I don't mean to scare anyone here - but I think this is something very important for us to realize. It has been said that the greatest trick the Devil can play on us is to make us think that he does not exist. If we don't think the Devil exists, then we logically won't think that he's setting any traps for us. Let me assure you - this is clearly Biblical - the Devil exists. Evil exists in this world. Temptation exists. And evil does not rest. However - the good news - God is so much bigger and stronger and brighter (and this list can go on) than the Devil - the Enemy. David says in this Psalm that his eyes are ALWAYS looking to the Lord for help. Why? Because God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit alone can rescue us from the traps of the Enemy. Again, the traps are out there for us in this modern world. The temptations and dark alleys and wrong turns call to us unceasingly. But - again, great news here - we can be saved from all of that nonsense; all of that darkness; indeed all of that death, through a relationship with Jesus. Jesus saves. Jesus saves us from ourselves. From our sin. And from the Enemy that sets traps for us. Like David in this Psalm, are your eyes always looking to the Lord for help? Please don't ever take your eyes off God and His mercies, power, and strength.
Proverbs - Okay, Proverbs chapter 6 verses 9 through 11 make me smile. I do absolutely see the wisdom in these verses... but reading the word lazybones makes me smile. Is this a New Living Translation thing?? I honestly wondered for a split second if I was getting The Message translation on this Proverb somehow today! :) These are powerful words of wisdom I think for each of us to consider: "But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? I want you to learn this lesson: A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest-- and poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber." It is pretty amazing to consider that this Proverb also tells us to take a lesson from the ant! The seemingly lowly ant! We're told to emulate. I love that... and it's so true. The ant works hard for its keep! What lesson can you learn from the ant today?
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Based on the lesson from the ant in today's Proverbs, how do you balance working hard in your life with getting proper rest and relaxation? How do you find the balance? I think balance in our life is a challenging thing to find in almost all areas of our life. We have to be vigilant about balance in all things, or else we'll lose our balance. I know there is the modern day adage of "Work Hard and Play Hard." But I'm not so sure about this adage... seems to me like you could end up being a selfish workaholic weekend warrior who spends money and time only on your own gratification with this adage. I hope that wasn't too harsh?... :) I do agree that we need to work and play - but I'm just not sure about playing hard. I'm thinking the adage should maybe be "Work Well and Play Well" or "Work Smart and Play Smart." Or something along those lines. Please post up in the Comments below how you balance work and play and rest in your life? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!