Exodus 19:16-21:21 + Matthew 23:13-39 + Psalm 28:1-9 + Proverbs 7:1-5
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Old Testament - Big day today! Ten Commandments day! This kind of snuck up on me, but it was a great surprise. Today in Exodus chapter 19 Mount Sinai plays quite a prominent role in the narrative. Below is an image of Mt. Sinai that I think correlates well with verse 18: "All Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the LORD had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain shook with a violent earthquake."
Exodus chapter 20 brings us the Ten Commandments. And as I like to do from time to time on this blog, I'd like to share with you Eugene Peterson's "The Message" paraphrase of the Ten Commandments from verses 1 - 20:
"GOD spoke all these words:
I am GOD, your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of a life of slavery.
No other gods, only me.
No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don't bow down to them and don't serve them because I am GOD your God, and I'm a most jealous God, punishing the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me. But I'm unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments.
No using the name of GOD your God, in curses or silly banter; GOD won't put up with the irreverent use of his name.
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to GOD your God. Don't do any work--not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days GOD made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore GOD blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.
Honor your father and mother so that you'll live a long time in the land that GOD your God, is giving you.
No lies about your neighbor.
No lusting after your neighbor's house--or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don't set your heart on anything that is your neighbor's."
Has anyone else noticed that The Message in the Old Testament doesn't really seem to stray too far from other translations, whereas The Message in the New Testament can take some wild leaps and twists and turns? Just something I noticed recently... I am curious - are there many Message One Year Bible readers participating with us this year? A great overview and commentary on the Ten Commandments is online at bible.org at this link. I think this image below is helpful in that it shows the first 4 commandments are about our relationship with God and the next 6 about our relationship with people:
Verse 19 in this chapter is intriguing as the Israelites speak to Moses: ""You tell us what God says, and we will listen. But don't let God speak directly to us. If he does, we will die!"" The NIV Study Bible commentary suggests that this is the first time that people asked for a "mediator" between them and God. And that mediator is initially fulfilled in Moses, then in the Aaronic / Levitical priests, then in the prophets, and then finally in Jesus Christ - our final mediator. Powerful for each of us to consider... Who is the mediator between you and God?
I liked reading and considering the simplicity of God's instructions on the proper use of altars in verses 24 & 25: ""The altars you make for me must be simple altars of earth.... Build altars in the places where I remind you who I am, and I will come and bless you there. If you build altars from stone, use only uncut stones. Do not chip or shape the stones with a tool, for that would make them unfit for holy use." For some reason the simplicity of these altars stood in stark contrast to the religiosity Jesus goes after in our Matthew readings today. Maybe God likes us to keep things simple? This is an interesting thing to consider. The gospel message is not complicated. It's simple. Sometimes I think we do a pretty good job of complicating it for ourselves or others though. When maybe instead we should just be sharing with others our simple altars to God....
Exodus chapter 21 dives into some regulations surrounding slavery. I know this brings up some questions. The One Year Bible Companion today covers this topic at a high level: "The Hebrews, though freed from slavery, had slaves themselves. A person could become a slave because of poverty, debt, or even crime. But Hebrew slaves were treated as humans, not property, and were allowed to work their way to freedom. The Bible acknowledges the existence of slavery but never encourages it." For further study on this topic - Bible.org has commentary on slavery in the Bible at this link, and at this link, and at this link.
New Testament - Today in Matthew 23 we read Jesus' "Woe to you!" warnings and teachings. Verses 25 & 26 stood out to me today: ""How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy--full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisees! First wash the inside of the cup, and then the outside will become clean, too." These verses reminded me a lot of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus very clearly goes to the heart of the matter with many of the Laws. These verses are such a strong reminder for us to guard our hearts - and what we let into our hearts - and the condition of our hearts. Because Jesus is much more concerned about the condition of our hearts than the condition of our skin. He wants to heal us from the inside out. How is the condition of your heart today? Will you allow Jesus to heal your heart? To heal you from the inside out? Where will you find true inner peace to heal you from the inside out?
Psalms - Psalm 28 verse 2 stood out to me today - "Listen to my prayer for mercy as I cry out to you for help, as I lift my hands toward your holy sanctuary." The thing that stood out to me is the image of the Psalmist "lifting his hands" in prayer. I'm curious about this - if you don't mind sharing in the Comments section below - do you periodically lift your hands in prayer? Do you kneel when you pray? Close your eyes? Bow your head? What do you do to really signify your worship and praise of God? Do you think lifting our hands or doing other body movements can change the way we pray to God - rather than doing nothing unique with our body? Let me know if you have Comments on this below... thanks... My quick thoughts are that we can absolutely pray at any time in any place without lifting our hands or closing our eyes or bowing, etc. I think this gets toward the idea of "praying unceasingly." However - I do think there is something special about the times in our day when we can really spend some quality quiet time with God in prayer. And the best way for me to personally do this is by really changing my body language first - by kneeling down, closing my eyes, bowing my head, maybe lifting my hands, etc. This somehow I think brings me closer to God - it doesn't bring God closer to me - he's always close. But, somehow, what I do with my body before & during prayer can definitely make a difference in how long I will actually pray to God and how deep into prayer & listening I will go. How about for you?
Proverbs - Proverbs chapter 7 verses 1 - 3 today are powerful: "Follow my advice, my son; always treasure my commands. Obey them and live! Guard my teachings as your most precious possession. Tie them on your fingers as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart." Do you guard God's teachings as your most precious possession? If not, what is your most precious possession? And then where do God's teachings rank in comparison to your other possessions?
Worship Video: Today's readings reminded me of Matthew West’s song “Truth Be Told:”
Do you want your truth to be told? Click here for Truth!
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture today: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." Matthew 23:3 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that you won't ever neglect justice, mercy and faithfulness in your life. Pray for justice. Pray for mercy. Pray for faithfulness.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Since we've arrived at the Ten Commandments in our readings today, now is an appropriate time to ask - are the Ten Commandments important to you? Why? Have they always been important to you? I will confess that there was a time early in my Christian walk where the Ten Commandments didn't really matter to me. All that mattered at that time was my faith in Jesus. But, then, I personally felt that I was not moving forward as a disciple of Jesus' without meditating upon and considering and, yes, applying the Ten Commandments to my life. Am I perfect when it comes to the Ten Commandments? Of course not, this side of heaven. But meditating upon the Ten Commandments and meditating upon my actions - in relationship with Jesus and inviting Jesus into this process - has changed my heart and my actions. Do you think that we should meditate upon the Ten Commandments and our actions? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
p.s. Download our monthly Small Group study notes for our One Year Bible readings at this link.
p.s. #2 - Download a schedule of our One Year Bible readings for the year in PDF format at this link.
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God sets boundaries for us not because He is some kind of control freak, but because He loves us and planned the best for us in eternity. If we do not cross the boundaries the negative cause and effects of law breaking does not come into existence.
And you will set boundaries for the people all around, saying, "Take heed to yourselves not to go up on the mountain nor touch its edge. Whoever touches the mountain will surely be put to death! (Exodus 19:12 NET.)
Ever since “In the beginning …” God has placed boundaries in his creation. The entire first chapter of Genesis God is setting boundaries. In the garden, God tells man, "You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:15-17 NET.)
The Ten Commandments are boundaries for righteous living upon the earth and if crossed, there are consequences. Maybe we look at these boundaries wrongly. If we see them as just a list of ten things not to do, then they are just a burdensome list of do nots. However, if we see them as a safety net to keep us snug and warm provided by a Father who loves us dearly, then the burdensome nature of a bunch of dos and don’ts cease. If we fully understand that God’s desire is to meet every one of our needs, we will wait on Him and not try to get it ourselves.
As for prayer postures, Mike, the postures you present all have to do with one thing, submission, the body language takes on the posture of submission. Raised hands indicate surrender to God. When someone points a gun to our heads and says, “Stick ‘um up,” we submit to the authority of the one holding the gun. Lying face down on the floor/ground or assuming the position of kneeling, means you are acknowledging the One who is Over All. Sadly, these postures can all be choreographed to give the appearance of submission and to impress the crowd, but either way, sincere or show, God knows the heart.
Interesting how the commonality of all four readings flows forth from the scriptures and that is submission. Whether in body language, prayer posture, wrongly choosing to submit to man’s laws over God’s, and submitting to words of wisdom, God’s Word, Old or New Testament is the same message presented from different perspectives.
It is said that we all have different learning styles and God covers them all in His Word. Because He created us to have those different styles, God is not a one-size fits all kind of Guy, He meets everyone at their point of need and at their ability.
Grace and peace,
Posted by: Ramona | February 03, 2023 at 08:27 PM
Interesting Christian exercise:
If we set aside God’s civil and ceremonial commands for Israel in the Old Testament, and look at God’s moral commands (which are repeated in New Testament); we can conclude moral commands are for everyone - Jew and Gentile. Why? Because God’s moral commands are prescribed so humanity can flourish. Just do a pros and cons list for each command, and one sees that they are for our good (Always).
Regarding Slavery and people who say Bible condones slavery:
In ancient times there was no prison system. If at war, and you captured but did not kill your enemy, is it morally wrong to make them your servants? If you have money problems and are a Jew, is it morally wrong to accept servitude as payment for the debt.
Where God is radical in his instructions on slavery is - He instructs for the humane treatment of slaves and in debt bondage puts limitations on time served and allows for getting them started in a new life at end of servitude.
Why radical? Look at ancient history and see the treatment prescribed for slave’s in Hammurabi’s Code, in Egyptian culture, in all the “ites” in Canaan, and later in Assyrian Empire. See how inhumane they were to people in servitude. God never said - “ I approve of slavery”. What he said was in this social institution of the times - “this is how you are to treat servants - humanely.”
Posted by: mitch | February 04, 2023 at 09:11 PM