Monday, January 30, 2017

January 30: Exodus 10 – 12:13; Psalm 25:1-15; Proverbs 6:6-11; Matthew 20:1-28



Overview

            Exodus: God continues to harden Pharaoh’s heart in order that all the Israelites, sons and grandsons will know that God is the Lord. Moses tells Pharaoh that locust will cover the land tomorrow. Pharaoh’s servants plead with him to let the people go. He calls Moses and Aaron back and tries to negotiate for only the men to go worship the Lord. But Moses says everyone including livestock must go. Pharaoh won’t allow it so God sends the locust with a wind. They eat all of the green plants. Pharaoh repents and admits his sin. The Lord sends a wind to take the locust into the Red Sea. Then the Lord hardens Pharaoh’s heart so he won’t let the people go.
            Without warning, the Lord has Moses stretch out his staff and darkness comes on the land for three days. The land of Goshen with the Israelites still had light. I wonder how those who don’t believe in miracles try to explain that one. Pharaoh calls Moses and tells him all the people can go but not the livestock. Moses explains they need the livestock for sacrifice and all must go because they don’t know which animals are needed for sacrifice. The Lord hardens Pharaoh again and he won’t let the people go. Pharaoh threatens to kill Moses if he comes again.
            The Lord tells Moses there will be one more plague and they will be free. So they are to ask their neighbors for loot. The Lord gave Moses and the Israelites favor in the Egyptians’ sight.
            Before leaving Pharaoh, Moses tells him that the firstborn of everyone, man and animal will be killed at midnight, but not among the Israelites. This is the Lord showing the distinction between Egypt and Israel. The Lord hardens Pharaoh’s heart so he did not listen.
            The Lord explains the Passover. He establish this month as the first month of the year and the tenth of the month to take a lamb without blemish and kill it at twilight. They are to spread the blood on the doorposts and lintel of their houses. They are to eat the lamb with bitter herbs. They are to eat full dressed ready to leave in haste. God will kill the firstborn of Egypt bringing judgment upon the gods of Egypt. However, the blood on the Israelites’ doors will be a sign to the Israelites. When God sees the blood, he will pass over them and go on to the Egyptians.
            Psalm 25: David expresses his trust in the Lord and not to be put to shame. It is done by God leading him. David remembers his youthful sins and asks that God not remember them. He affirms that God instructs sinners and God’s ways are faithful. David asks to be pardoned for God’s name’s sake and speaks of the blessing of the one who fears God and is instructed by him.
            Proverbs: This is a warning about being lazy.
            Matthew: Jesus tells another parable. This one is also about the kingdom of heaven being like a man who hired workers for his vineyard. During the day, he would find workers at different times. The first agreed to work for a denarius. Those hired later were to work for what was right. Even to the last hour of the day, he hired people. The foreman was instructed to pay everyone a denarius starting with the most recently hire to the ones who worked all day. The ones who worked all day thought they would get more but didn’t and grumbled. The owner reminded them of the agreement and it was his right to pay, as he wanted.
            Again, Jesus tells his disciples that he will be condemned to death and executed by Gentiles, but raised on the third day.
            Right after that, James and John’s mother asks that her sons be on Jesus’ right and left in his kingdom. He asks them if they are able to go through what he is about to go through and they answer they can. He agrees they will but, the positions of left and right are for those his father has prepared. The other ten disciples heard it and were upset. Jesus reminds them all that to be great in the kingdom they need to be slaves. He points to himself being a ransom for many rather than coming to be served.

What Stood Out

            Exodus: “I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord” (Ex 10:2)
            Psalm: “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul” (Ps 25:1).
            Proverbs: “Poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” (Prov 6:11).
            Matthew: “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” (Matt 20:15).

Insight

            Exodus: God’s plan is beyond our understanding. I’m sure Moses and the Israelites were in awe as God brought down the plagues on the Egyptians but left the Israelites alone. What a change this must have been for them. Previously they had grumbled when the Egyptians increased their labor after Moses asked to let them go. But now, God tells them that this is all being done so that the Hebrews would know that God is the Lord. The Lord also exalted Moses in the eyes of the Egyptians and made the Hebrews favorable in their sight so that they might plunder Egypt as they left. But that was not the most important part of the plan. God’s plan is always to glorify himself and he did this not just for Moses and the people, but for all generations of that would follow. That even extends to us who believe in Jesus as our Savior and Lord. We can read these accounts and know that God is the Lord. Anyone who has a Bible can read this and know the same thing.
            It is interesting to see how many times Pharaoh lets the people go only to reverse his decision. His servants must have thought he was going mad. The country is being ruined because of his stubbornness. The Lord provides us a clear example of a person who is ruled by his own sinfulness. Yes, God hardens his heart over and over, but what is already in his heart would probably have been enough. He is like an abuser who batters his loved ones then begs them to come back. He promises he loves them but repeats the pattern when they return. He is like an alcoholic who promises reform but always returns to the bottle. I could name any sin and it’s the same. Until there is a radical regeneration of the heart by the Holy Spirit, nothing changes. Sure, some people clean up their outward act but not their heart. Without saving grace, it is impossible to make heart change.
            When it comes to the Passover, God shows us exactly what it takes to make the change. In the imagery of the Passover, we find the solution to our sin problem. It takes the death of an innocent lamb and its blood to spare the Hebrews of the same fate that befalls the Egyptians. In the same way, it takes the innocent blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God to take away our sin (John 1:29). When we trust in the blood of Jesus to save us from our sins, we can turn from being an abuser, drunkard, gossip, slander, or whatever because the Holy Spirit regenerates and changes us. He gives us a heart that is not hardened but one of flesh, “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezek 11:19). We don’t have to have a hardened heart like Pharaoh because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
            Psalm: I really resonate with “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul” (Ps 25:1). This is an image of complete surrender and trust in God. Here it is Lord, my soul, my very being, all that I am. I yield it to you and stop trying to set my own course. I turn from my desires and look for what you want me to be. The sins of my youth and my rebellious ways, the Lord does not remember (Ps 25:6). What a relief that is. When I trust in him, I won’t be put to shame. He will not drag out my sins to display before the world now or at the judgment. If they are exposed in this world, it will be for his glory, just as Pharaoh’s sins brought glory to God. But for his name’s sake, he has pardoned my sins (Ps 25:11) and it reminds me that it isn’t anything I’ve done to earn that.
            Proverbs: We can understand theology from nature and we can understand it from the Word of God. This is great example of a theologian using nature and developing a theological truth. “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (Prov 6:6). It helps that God inspires the theologian, Solomon. To boil it down, a lazy person will end up in poverty and want (Prov 6:11).
            Matthew: Jesus’ parable of the kingdom compared to a man hiring people to work in his vineyard reveals several things about the kingdom of God. The first is that Jesus brings people into his kingdom at different times of their lives. They are invited, not compelled to come into the kingdom, neither can they come by their own efforts. Some come early in their life (the ones hired early), others come later (those hired later), and some come just before the day (this life) ends. We must remember they were invited into the kingdom and then they worked. They didn’t work to get in (Eph 2:8-10). So the grumbling workers are those who think that their long labors in the Lord are those who have lost their perspective. They forget they were on the outside and invited to come into the kingdom. They knew the cost and the reward but they thought they should get more for their long labor. The denarius could represent salvation, but that doesn’t fit with salvation being a gift. The denarius could be the rewards in heaven but doesn’t seem to fit either. Rather I think the denarius is a prop Jesus used to get people thinking about who is first and who is last in the kingdom. Those who think they should be first think too much of themselves and will be last. Those who are last don’t think they will get much but get much more than expected. The bottom line is that Jesus is sovereign and we shouldn’t tell him how to do things.
            This parable can’t be use to assert that we have the right to do whatever we want with our property. It doesn’t mean we can be unfair with our resources. We have to follow the laws.
            So Jesus tells again about his death and resurrection. What is the result? James and John’s mother asks Jesus to let her sons be on his left and right in his kingdom. Mark records this as James and John asking (Mark 10:35). Perhaps they put Mom up to the task. However it happened, it is astonishing that they heard the parable, heard Jesus talking about his death and then were so callous as to ask to be first in his kingdom. They are also so bold as to think they can endure what Jesus will. They are clueless.
            However, Jesus is patient with them. That’s the way he is with all of us. We may ask him for crazy things but he says yes or no. He doesn’t slap us down. However, he does remind us that to be first in his kingdom is to be a slave to the others. We are not called to exercise authority over other but to be servant-leaders. Jesus is the prime example. He came to serve and be a ransom to purchase us from our sins and bring us into his kingdom.

Application

            Being a servant-leader is tough. It goes against our grain, that is, it goes against our flesh – our sinful nature. It is natural to want to be in the limelight. That is the problem with any sin. Sin is natural for us. So I must remember to put to death what belongs to the sinful nature and put on Christ, the perfect servant so I can be a servant.

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