Devo 13

“Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Her held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side.  So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.  And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.”   Exodus 17:8-13

When we were living in Hawaii it was part of our daily routine to gather with the neighbors on the shore and watch the sunset.  Every evening.  It was just part of the rhythm of life and I seldom missed it.  Here’s a slideshow of some of those spectacular Hawaiian sunsets to whet your appetite. 

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My husband, on the other hand is an early riser and is quite familiar with the phenomenon called sunrise.  I have to admit that the few times I have dragged myself out of bed to witness this display have been wonderful to behold.  Here’s a much, much shorter slideshow just to prove how seldom it happens.

Mauna KeaSunrise 9.29.12

Now the point I want to make is this:  “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!”  (Psalm 113:3)

I love how our reading in Exodus 17:8-16 gives us ample reason to praise His name.  Was it really Moses’ puny arms that were turning the tides of battle? No!  Was it the strength of the rock upon which he rested?  Or the brothers on either side of him who held his hands steady?  No!  It was the Lord!  That’s why the alter Moses built was called “The Lord is My Banner.”  It is the Lord who fought the battle till the sun went down.  And the Lord who won the victory.

And Hezekiah.  This king was sick to the point of death.  But he cries out to the Lord to remember him.  What kind of God was Hezekiah crying out to?  Don’t you think it’s interesting that the sign of lengthened longevity the Lord gives is a celestial one?  God literally turns back the clock.  The sun goes backward on the sundial and Hezekiah isn’t just granted days or weeks or months.  He’s granted 15 more years!  Of course the One who determines the rising and the setting of the sun can determine a man’s length of days! 

Next time you’re watching a sunrise or a sunset have Psalm 65 at your fingertips.  Here are just a few reasons listed in those passages to be praising the name of our Lord from the rising of the sun to it’s setting:

  • He hears our prayer
  • He atones for our transgression
  • He chooses us and brings us near to dwell in His courts
  • He satisfies us with the goodness of His house and the holiness of His temple
  • He answers us with awesome, righteous deed
  • He is the God of our salvation
  • He is the hope of the ends of the earth
  • He made the mountains by His strength
  • He stills the waves
  • He stills the tumult of the peoples
  • He makes the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy!
  • He waters and enriches the earth
  • He prepares, provides, waters and blesses the growth of grain
  • He crowns the year with His bounty

Isn’t it just reasonable to conclude from that list that God loves us?  I find it remarkable then, that in Malachi 1 when the Lord says to Israel, “I have loved you,” their response is “How?”  It seems that the Lord could have just pulled Psalm 65 out of His back pocket and read them the above list.  Or He could have simply pointed to the sun in its course as evidence, or the fact that they were alive.  It seems an ignorant question, right?  “How have you loved us?”  But how does God choose to answer them?  “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord.  “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated.”  What?  I don’t remember that one listed in The 5 Love Languages.  Is God really saying that the way He’s shown His love for Jacob is by hating Esau?  That’s really hard for me to wrap my mind around.  

But that’s not the only dumb question the Israelites ask.  Let’s read further to verses 6 and 7.  “How have we despised your name?”  “How have we polluted you?”  And God answers with a list.  Which they “snort at”  and conclude in verse 13, “What a weariness this is.” 

Oh friend.  Has that been the attitude of your own heart?  It has been of mine.  Out of God’s great love for me, He has chosen me to come near and dwell in His courts to be part of a holy priesthood.  And yet sometimes, I “snort” and find the worship of my Father, Master, and King a wearisome task.  May it not be!  “For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.”

Go back to that slide show.  Better yet, step outside sometime and watch a sunrise or sunset with Psalm 65 in your hand.  And think of Hezekiah on his deathbed.  The sun was going down and it stopped and went backward.  And Hezekiah lived.  The same God who causes the sun to rise and set on the righteous and the ungodly has your life and breath in His hand.  And He loves you.  That’s nothing to snort at friends.  That’s reason for worship!

From the rising of the sun to its setting, my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering.  For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 1:11)

Devo 12

“Now there was a famine in the land…  And the Lord appeared to Isaac and said,           “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you.  Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.  I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands.  And in your offspring all the earth shall be blessed.”  Genesis 26:1-4

It’s not by accident that the covenant renewal with Isaac comes in the midst of a famine in the land.  Nor is it accident that it immediately follows a certain domestic vignette between Jacob and Esau.  It was an otherwise normal day.  Jacob was cooking stew when his older twin brother, Esau comes in from the field exhausted and demands some of the stew.  Wiley Jacob, whose name means “heal grabber, or cheater,” agrees to give him a bowl in exchange for Esau’s birthright.  Fair trade?  Ridiculous right?  But Essau does it.  He reasons, “Hey I’m about to die of starvation anyway, what good is my birthright?” (Genesis 25:29-34)

So now the scene changes back to their father Isaac.  In the midst of a famine, God comes to him, and renews the promise of offspring, inheritance, and blessing.  It’s the covenant of birthright in God’s family.  Generations later, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have indeed been multiplied as the stars in the heavens and once again, they’re famished.

“We’re about to die of starvation, what good is our birthright?” they complain, “We’d rather be enslaved back in Egypt where at least we had food!” (Exodus 16:1-3)

Oh dear one!  Let us not fall into the trap of thinking we are some how different from Essau or Israelites.  Is theirs not the same folly as Eve’s, who observing that the forbidden fruit was good for food and a delight to the eyes, she took and ate?  Perfect eternal communion with the glorious triune God exchanged for an earthly morsel?  Is it not the same as those Paul writes of in Philippians 3:18-19, who live as enemies of the cross, setting their minds on earthly things, making a god of their own belly?  Is that not the slavery each of us finds ourselves in from birth?  Left to our own desires we all choose the earthly morsel and reject the infinitely satisfying glory of God.  But just listen to how God responds in Exodus 16:12. 

“I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel.  Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread.  Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.”

Moses had told the Israelites that in the morning they would see the glory of the Lord.  And sure enough, in the morning there was the manna.  They were told to gather their fill till the sun grew hot and not to leave any of it over till morning.  But of course, some of them did, and it rotted, became worm infested and stank.  The manna was a shadow of the perfect, imperishable Bread of the New Covenant to come.  Isaiah gives us a glimpse of what this New Covenant will be like in chapter 30:19-26.

“A people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more.  He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry.  As soon as He hears it, He answers you.  And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide Himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.  And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”

In the midst of an unearthly brightness, the Lord will give bread and rich and plenteous provision, and He will bind up the brokenness of His people and heal the wounds inflicted by His blow.  

Next week is Thanksgiving.  I already gave you a bonus Thanksgiving hymn to sing.  Can I also encourage you to make John 6 your Thanksgiving reading this year?  It starts with the miraculous feeding of another hungry horde with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.  Verse 11 says, “Jesus then took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed them to those who were seated.  So also the fish, as much as they wanted.”  Just like the manna in the desert, verse 12 says that everyone ate their fill and there was much left over.  

It’s a wonderful Thanksgiving story isn’t it?  But it too, is meant to serve as a shadow.  The substance is revealed in verses 26-71.  Jesus confronts His followers with the hard truth that they are only seeking Him because of the earthly morsels they filled their idolatrous bellies with.    “Do not work for the food that perishes,” He warns, “but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”  They of course, want to know what kind of work they need to do, but the works of God would be accomplished by a work of God.  They need only believe.  “But we need a sign!” they argue.  Moses gave our fathers manna in the desert, what are you going to give us?”  

“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the wold.’  They said to Him, ‘Sir give us this bread always.” (John 6:32-34)

They seem to like the sound of all this foody talk but then Jesus takes things a step further and that sets the crowds grumbling.  

I AM the bread of life 

All that my Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out… 

And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day

For this is the will of my father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day

Whoever believes has eternal life.  I AM the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that a came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh…

Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:35-50)

Are you sensing a theme running through these life-giving words?  Unlike the manna that melted in the sun, Jesus is the bread that never perishes.  And those who believe in Him, even though they die, and worms infest their bodies like the left-over manna, Jesus will raise them up on the last day unto life everlasting!  Here was the Eternal Spiritual Manna before their very eyes but still they grumbled. Even His own disciples were grumbling over the hard things He said. Of course Jesus knew they would and He knew His words would cause many of them to turn back and no longer walk with Him.  Even if they saw with their own eyes His signs and wonders and even if He were to ascend into the heavens in front of them, some of them would still take offense.  He explains in verses 63-65,

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life but there are some of you who do not believe… This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Dear friends, as you gather together around the table this Thanksgiving, ask yourselves, “Do you want to go away as well?”  Are these hard sayings offensive?  Are you living as an enemy of the cross?  Are you reaching for the earthly morsels rather than the Eternally Satisfying Manna?  Or can you answer as Simon Peter did in verse 68,

“Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Let us then, GIVE THANKS.

Week 12

Memory Verse: Psalm 84:11

Reading #1: Genesis 25:29-26:5

Questions:  What logical reasoning did Esau use for selling his birthright for a bowl of soup?What was going on in the land at the time God renews His covenant with Isaac?  What charges, commandments, statutes and laws do you think God was commending Abraham for having obeyed?

Reading #2: Exodus 16:1-21

Questions: What was going on in the wilderness of Sin with Abraham’s descendants? What were they wishing for in verse 3 and how does it remind you of Esau?  In verse 7, what does Moses tell the Israelites they will see in the morning?  What was on the ground in the morning and where had it come from? In verses 19-21, what happened to the left-over manna?

Reading #3: Isaiah 30:19-26

Questions:  What was going on in verse 19 and how does God respond?  What kind of bread does God give them this time?  Who will the people see?  In verse 26 what does God promise to do for them and what was the cause of their injury?

Reading #4: John 6:22-71

Questions:  What truth does Jesus confront these “seekers” with in verse 26? What food does He encourage them to “work for” instead, and how does Jesus say they’ll actually get it?

In verse 32 what evidence does Jesus offer them as a sign of His authority? What is promised to al those who “look on the Son and believe in Him?” After hearing these truths, what characteristic thing are the Jews once again doing in verses 41, 52 and 60? 

Psalms and Hymns

Psalm 84B “For God the Lord is shield and sun; The Lord will grace and glory give.  No good will He withhold from one who does uprightly walk and live.”

Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed  “Well might the sun in darkness hide and shut His glories in, when God, the mighty Maker, died for man the creature’s sin.”

In Thanksgiving Let Us Praise Him “From the first bright light of morning, to the last warm glow of dusk; every breath we take is sacred, for it is God’s gift to us.”

Praying Under the Same Sky

Iceland, India, Indonesia