Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 29 Jan 18:
1. Exodus 7:5 – “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” God had a plan that was much bigger than just helping the Jews – He intended to glorify Himself to those who did not know Him, to the whole world and for all future generations. The Jews saw circumstances from their perspective and complained, but God had a much greater good in mind. Understand that God has a plan for your life that places Him at the center, even at the expense of your comfort and desires. However, also understand that though God’s plan might call for discomfort in your life, His plan is always best for you too, the product of a perfectly loving God. If you see life from your perspective, you will only be frustrated and joyless. If you keep God in the center, seek to understand God’s will, truly pray the Lord’s Prayer in your heart – “Thy will be done….” — you will find peace and joy in the midst of any circumstance and you will be in a position to be used mightily by God.
2. Exodus 7:6, 7 – “Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them. Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.” Moses and Aaron had come to a place in their lives where they were willing to obey God totally; it took over 80 years for them to get to that place. How long will it take before you are willing to do “just as the Lord commanded”? Then, you will be very usable.
3. Exodus 7:8-13 – World philosophies claim to be just as powerful as Christianity, claiming to produce the same results in your life as God. The world will point to many philosophies for relief of mankind’s problems. Christians point only to Jesus Christ. Just as in the time of Moses, we are in a contest of beliefs. The Gospel will consume all other philosophies.
4. Exodus 7:8-13 – World philosophies claim to be just as powerful and claim to produce the same results in your life as God. The world will point to many philosophies and remedies for relief from mankind’s problems. However, they all fall short and only contribute to deeper issues. Christians point only to Jesus Christ. Just as in the time of Moses, we are in a contest of beliefs. The Gospel will consume all other philosophies ultimately, but what will control the lives of you and those around you? Our mission is to help guide people to the Truth.
5. Exodus 7:19 – “…there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.” It is comical how historians attempt to find natural causes for God’s supernatural work. In the modern movie “Exodus”, The Nile turns to blood because of rampant crocodile attacks. Here we see that the Bible points out that all water turned to blood. Hollywood doesn’t mention that. When science becomes a person’s religion, they leave no room for the supernatural, power beyond what can be observed and explained by the human intellect. When these humanists see the unexplainable, they have to create a false science, and explanation that cannot be proven but is accepted as truth. Then, anyone who doesn’t accept the false truth must be condemned as ignorant, superstitious, and closed-minded.
6. Exodus 7:23 – “Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart.” Pride is a powerful thing. You cannot convince a prideful person, through reason or miracles, to accept Jesus Christ because their heart hasn’t been humbled by the Holy Spirit. However, our job is to proclaim the Gospel to all creation, regardless of the response. You never know what seeds you are planting. Proclaim the truth to all, but don’t argue with the scoffers.
7. Exodus 8:1 – “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let my people go, that they may serve me.’” Hollywood quotes, “Let my people go,” but fails to include the most important part, the reason – “that they may serve me.” Like Hollywood, we tend to see the Bible from a man-centered perspective rather than a God-centered perspective. It’s not about giving us; it is all about God. God is not here to serve us or to make our lives what we want them to be. We exist to serve Him, to glorify Him, and to enjoy Him always.
8. Exodus 8:10 – “Moses said, ‘Be it as you say, so that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.’” Again, God’s intent is to reveal Himself and to bring glory to Himself, not simply to bless His people.
9. Exodus 8:22 – “But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth.” When God blesses you uniquely, it is a testimony of His power to those around you. This is your testimony as His witness.
10. Exodus 8:27 – “We must go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord our God as he tells us.” God’s authority is higher than government’s. You must obey God over government.
11. Proverbs 29:1 – “He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.” Safety investigators point out that most catastrophic mishaps were the result of unsafe practices that had become habits long before the mishap, and that there had often been previous near misses or close calls (warnings). Ninety-nine times out of 100, a person might get away with carelessness, but the 100th time is devastating. What is true with physical mishaps is also true with moral failures.
12. Proverbs 29:1 — “He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.” Don’t take God’s patience for granted, and don’t be presumptuous with grace.
13. Proverbs 29:4 – “By justice a king builds up the land.” God is the God of mercy and grace, but never forget that He is also the God of justice. Imagine one day on earth with no justice, and you can start to understand that injustice is and evil that our loving, righteous, holy God cannot tolerate. We have to stand up for justice and Ambassadors for Jesus Christ (who physically attacked the money changers in the Temple).
14. Proverbs 29:6 — “An evil man is ensnared in his transgression, but a righteous man sings and rejoices.” Sinners claim to have freedom in sin, unshackled by God’s commands. They don’t know the freedom they are missing in Christ. Jesus teaches us that obedience to God allows us to enjoy the fullness of life without unneeded pain and sorrow. Fences on playgrounds keep the children from running out into the highway traffic, enabling them to enjoy the whole playground without fear. Obey God and enjoy His blessings without curses.
15. Proverbs 29:8 — “Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath.” Have we not witnessed this?
16. Proverbs 29:9 — “If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.” Wise people don’t argue. Arguments occur with people who really don’t want to hear what you are saying anyway. You can disagree without arguing and, in the process, even build relationship.
17. Proverbs 29:10 — “Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless and seek the life of the upright.” People who live in darkness hate bright lights.
18. Proverbs 29:18 – “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” The law reflects the perfect will of God, and restrains us where we have yet been perfected in love to protect us and others from ourselves. Obeying the law out of duty is not the same as obeying the law out of genuine love, but obedience at least helps bridle our worldly passions while we grow in love. Even those who don’t believe in God receive good consequences from conforming to God’s laws.
19. Proverbs 29:18 — “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” God’s word is used by the Holy Spirit like a coach that makes you do what you often don’t feel like doing so you can win the big game. Good coaches make you run laps you don’t really want to run, pushing you out of your comfort zone to increase your capabilities. No matter how fast you run, the goal is to run faster. The Holy Spirit will run you too.
20. Proverbs 29:21 — “Whoever pampers his servant from childhood will in the end find him his heir.” God knows better than to pamper you.
21. Proverbs 29:25 — “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.” Worrying about what other people will think of us or do to us is one of the primary reasons we fail to follow Jesus wholeheartedly.
22. Proverbs 29:26 — “Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the LORD that a man gets justice.” This is such an important truth for us to understand. Too often we turn to human leaders or government for ‘salvation’ or ‘justice’. Too often we look to others for what only God can give us. God is Almighty and Lord of all. Turn to Him.
23. Matthew 21:6 – “The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.” Followers of Christ obey, period. If you are comfortable in disobedience, you are not really a disciple. If you think grace gives you a license to remain in sinful habits, you are misled. If you don’t have a passion for holiness and purity, you don’t have a passion for Christ.
24. Matthew 21:6 – “The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.” Followers of Christ obey, period, just as Moses and Aaron exhibited in today’s readings. If you are comfortable in disobedience, you are not really a disciple; you might be a believer (the demons believe in Jesus), but you are not a disciple, a disciplined follower of Jesus. If you think grace gives you a license to remain in sinful habits, you are misled. If you don’t have a passion for holiness and purity, you don’t really have a passion for Christ.
25. Matthew 21:12, 13 — “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.’” The only time it is recorded that Jesus used physical force against anyone was to throw the money changers out of the temple (John says he even whipped them). According to historians, when Jews came to Jerusalem to pay their Temple tax, they could only pay it with a special coin, the half-shekel. This was a half-ounce of pure silver, about the size of a quarter. It was the only coin at that time which was pure silver and of assured weight, without the image of a pagan Emperor, and therefore to the Jews it was the only coin acceptable to God. The money changers had cornered the market on them, and so they raised the price of them to whatever the market could bear. They used their monopoly they had on these coins to make exorbitant profits, forcing the Jews to pay whatever these money changers demanded. Also, these ‘money-changers’ sold livestock (and doves to the poor) at unfair rates. Jesus was particularly sensitive to the impact of this extortion on the poor (Mark 12:40-42; Luke 20:47; Luke 21:2). According to Mark 11:16, Jesus shut down the whole temple exchange system – “And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.” It is a terrible sin to take advantage of the poor, the needy, the ignorant, and the weak. Yet, the banking industry, the insurance industry, the gambling industry, and the sales industry often use very complex schemes to trick the ignorant into unneeded financial loss. I see this happen every day to young adults who are convinced by someone that their six or seven-year loan on that brand new car is a great deal because they can afford to make the monthly car payment. Today, even the government uses state lotteries to supplement their income, institutionalizing the manipulation of the poor and ignorant (first state lottery, 1964; now in 44 states; no major church resistance). In some states, lottery income exceeds revenues from corporate income taxes. Often you will hear Christians compare today’s sexual immorality to that of Sodom and Gomorrah, but they forget about the similarities in economic manipulation – “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49) The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice. Ezekiel 22:29) “In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.” (Psalm 10:2) A Christian must never be advantaged by taking advantage of others. Job defended his righteousness by pointing to his treatment of the weak — “If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow), if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or the needy without covering, if his body has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep, if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, because I saw my help in the gate, then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket. For I was in terror of calamity from God, and I could not have faced his majesty.” (Job 31:16-23) Consider our economy and market from God’s perspective.
– Psalm 72:4 — May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!
– Proverbs 14:31 — Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
– Proverbs 19:17 — Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.
– Proverbs 22:7 — The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
– Proverbs 22:9 — Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.
– Proverbs 22:16– Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.
– Proverbs 22:22– Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate,
– Proverbs 28:3– A poor man who oppresses the poor is a beating rain that leaves no food.
– Proverbs 28:6 — Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.
– Proverbs 28:8 — Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
– Proverbs 29:7 — A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.
– Proverbs 30:14 — There are those whose teeth are swords, whose fangs are knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, the needy from among mankind.
– Proverbs 31:9 — Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
– Ecclesiastes 5:8 — If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them.
– Isaiah 3:14 — The LORD will enter into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: “It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
– Isaiah 3:15– What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?” declares the Lord GOD of hosts.
– Isaiah 10:2– to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
– Isaiah 32:7 — As for the scoundrel—his devices are evil; he plans wicked schemes to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right.
– Ezekiel 16:49 — Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.
– Ezekiel 22:29 — The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice.
– Amos 4:1 — “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’
– Amos 5:11 — Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine.
– Luke 14:13 — But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,
26. Matthew 21:12 – “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.” Money changers were taking advantage of people financially through religious products. They were capitalizing on worship. This infuriated Jesus and, yes, Jesus reacted violently, using drapery chords as a whip to drive the moneychangers out (described on later readings). How many people are cashing in on Jesus today? How many teachers attract people to their books and other pieces of merchandise rather than the Bible? Matthew 10:8 – “Freely you have received; freely give.”
27. Matthew 21:12-17 – Jesus showed both justice and mercy which go hand-in-hand. Yes, Jesus violently stood up against injustice. We too must stand boldly for justice, but we must also stand boldly and faithfully for mercy and grace. One of the hardest things for a person to do is to understand how to administer justice, mercy, and grace as an ambassador of Christ. This cannot be achieved through intellect alone – it requires the counsel of the Holy Spirit.
28. Matthew 21:28-32 – You must be more than just a hearer of the word; you must be a doer of the word. Jesus said that those who really love Him obey Him. Anyone can talk about following Jesus, but it takes faith, hope, and love to really follow Him in obedience.
29. Matthew 21:43 – “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.” God’s people are the ones producing fruit in the name of Jesus Christ. How many people will you tell about Jesus Christ today? How will your words and deeds draw others closer to Jesus today?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 29 Jan 18: Meditate upon obedience today. Pray for obedience today. Pray for obedience that is truly inspired by love and not by merely a desire for personal ‘righteousness’. Seek to walk in righteousness today, and all the while, consider your motivation for what you are doing. (See today’s readings)