Sunday, January 29, 2017

January 29: Exodus 8 – 9; Psalm 24; Proverbs 6:1-5; Matthew 19:13-19:30


            Exodus: God continues to direct Moses in demanding that Pharaoh let the Israelites leave Egypt. Since he does not comply, God brings frogs out of all the waters. The frogs invade houses, ovens, bowl, and crawl all over people. The magicians did the same (oh thrill, more frogs). Pharaoh says he will let the people go and asks Moses to ask the Lord to make them go away. Moses asks when to make sure Pharaoh know it is the Lord’s doing. Pharaoh replies tomorrow (why not now?). The frogs all die the next day and stink up he land.
            The same scenario is repeated with a few minor differences for the following plagues. Gnats come up from the dust of the land. The magicians can’t do it so they tell Pharaoh it is from the Lord. Swarms of flies are the fourth plague. This time the land of Goshen where the Hebrews live is spared. Pharaoh says they can go but reneges as soon as the flies are gone. The fifth plague is upon the livestock of the Egyptians where all die. The sixth plague is boils on the Egyptians. The magicians can’t even stand before Moses.
            The seventh is hail that kills everyone that is in the open and all livestock that is in the open. Many Egyptians who fear the Lord bring in slaves and livestock but others ignore the warning. Barley is ruined but not the wheat. Pharaoh admits he has sinned
            Pharaoh hardened his heart over the frogs, flies, and hail. The Lord hardened his heart over the boils. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened over the gnats and livestock without mention of whether he did it himself or God did it to him.
            Psalm 24: In the first six verses, David declares that the whole earth belongs to the Lord. Only those who are pure can stand before him. They are blessed by God. In the last six verses, David expounds on the King of Glory, the Lord of hosts.
            Proverbs: The passage is about what to do if you have put up security (co-signed) for a neighbor. If you have done it, go quickly and get out from under it. You have made yourself subordinate to them. Get out like a bird trying to get out of a trap.
            Matthew: One more thing about children – don’t keep them from Jesus.
            A rich young man comes to Jesus asking what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments. He says he has. Jesus tells him to sell all he has and give it to the poor and follow him. The man then turns and leaves.
            Jesus tells his disciple that it hard for rich people to be saved. That really bothers them and asks who can be saved. Jesus replies it is only possible by God. The disciples, still concerned say they have left everything, so what will they have.
            Jesus tells them they will rule with him when he comes back. Whatever they left in this lie, they will have one hundred times over in the next. But many who are first here will be last there and vice versa.

What Stood Out

            Exodus: “And  the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils” (Ex 9:11).
            Psalm: Who can stand in God’s holy place, “He who has  clean hands and  a pure heart,
who does not  lift up his soul to  what is false and does not swear deceitfully” (Ps 24:4).
            Proverbs: “Save yourself … like a bird from the hand of the fowler” (Prov 6:5).
            Matthew: “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” (Matt 19:20-21).


            Exodus: God’s sovereignty is often underestimated. So far in the Bible, it has been evident in many way. When it comes down to it, we will often admit that God is sovereign except when it comes to influencing individuals. In today’s reading, Pharaoh specifically hardened his own heart after several plagues. However, the Lord hardened his heart over the boils. In the chapters 10, 11, and 14, God again hardens his heart. This is the Lord doing what only he can do and only he has the right to do. If there is any doubt about God doing this verses Pharaoh’s own wicked desires, the same thing is told about others. Paul says, “Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor,  eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day’” (Rom 11:7-8). We can wonder about his and we can struggle against it. But this is what the Bible says.
             The magicians were the first to point out that God was behind the plagues starting with the gnats. They couldn’t duplicate them. I mentioned before that there is much we don’t know about the spiritual realm and what those connected to evil can do. However, they know who is in control and in this case, they admitted it. Still, there isn’t any evidence that they are willing to yield to God, even when they can’t even stand up because of their misery. It reminds me of James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even  the demons believe—and shudder!” It takes more than believing in God to be saved. It requires voluntary submission, not even forced submission as the magicians encountered will save a person.
            Here is an odd things to ponder as we go through the plagues. All the livestock were killed by the plague on livestock. Yet there were still livestock in the fields when the hail was brought. We shouldn’t become dogmatic about some of the wording in the Bible. We have to look at the Bible as a whole to understand when God says all. In this case it does not mean every single animal died.  
            Psalm: This Psalm is all about our glorious God. He is our creator so all of creation belongs to him (Ps 24:1-2). He is holy and only those who are pure can stand in his presences (Ps 24:3-4). The righteous of all generations can trust him for salvation (Ps 24:5-6). The will be day when he will come through the gates of Jerusalem (Ps 24:7, 9). He is strong and mighty, he is the Lord of hosts (Ps 24:8, 10).
            Proverbs: I watched a quail run into a large net I had hanging by our shed. The bird frantically and rapidly made his way free. He never slowed down until he got past the edge and flew away. That is a picture of how we should try to get out from under having co-signed for a loan (Prov 6:5). Of course the best course is to have read this and refused to co-sign in the first place. Other verses of warning are suffering harm (Prov 11:15); you lack sense if you do (Prov17:18); and just don’t do it or you could lose even your bed (Prov 22:26-27).
            Matthew: When Jesus talked with this young man about having eternal life, he didn’t mention one thing about believing in him, or some of the other things we are told by Jesus or the Gospel writers. He doesn’t say that he must confess Jesus as Lord (Rom 10:9). He point the man to the commandments, and not even to all of them. The astounding thing is that the man says he has kept them all. Obviously, the man had not heard or understood Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Otherwise, he would have known that anger is the same as murder (Matt 5:21-22) and lust is the same as adultery (Matt 5:27-28). And what about honoring his mother and father? Did Jesus know something about his attitude toward his parents? Did he really love his neighbors?
            The man was so self-righteous that he didn’t recognize his own sin. So Jesus takes one more poke at his heart. Sell everything and give it to the poor. Where were his treasures? They were not in heaven, but on the earth. Jesus knew that until we recognize our sin an repent, confessing him as Lord is only lip service and not the relationship that he requires.
            The disciples had learned that a wealthy man is one who is blessed by the Lord. There are many instances where this is true. David, Solomon, Abraham and others were wealthy and the Psalms repeat it often as in Psalm 37:25, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children  begging for bread.” Now Jesus tells them it is hard as a camel to go through the eye of a needle as it is for a rich man to be saved. There is no gate in Jerusalem, nor has there ever been one called the eye of a needle whereby a camel would have to get on its knees to go through. That was made up sometime between the 9th century and the 15the when it was first used. The clear unmistakable meaning of the common idiom is that it was impossible.[1] However, Jesus makes the point that with God it is possible.
            Think about that. We can’t save ourselves. Like the young man, we all have something in us, a favorite sin, whether it is pride or something else that makes it impossible to be saved. It isn’t until we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit that we can respond to Jesus and be saved (Titus 3:5). Ephesians 2:1 says we were dead in our sins. Dead people don’t respond. We must be make alive and that is why it is impossible for a rich man, poor man, woman, slave, or whatever to be saved. When God does it he gets the glory. If we could do it then we could boast and Paul says that we can’t, except in the cross (1 Cor 1:27-29, Gal 6:14).
            Their understanding has been turned upside down. What will become of them? What will become of us who have placed our trust in Jesus for our salvation? We will reign with him in his kingdom. He will make up to us in the eternity all that we had to give up in this life. Choose where you want your treasures. Some will make it but instead of being rich in heaven they will be poor because they didn’t invest in the kingdom (Matt 6:19-20).


            Embracing and accepting God’s sovereignty has been a huge blessing in my life. I have peace about things that others don’t. I don’t always remember that and have to be reminded, but I know that God is in control and the world is not spinning out of control. I still wonder what is going to happen but as long as I’m trying to do his will, I know that my future is secure. Maybe not in this life but in the one to come.

[1] See for indepth discussion of the idiom.

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