Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 1: Exodus 13:17-15:18; Psalm 26; Proverbs 6:16-19; Matthew 21:23-46



Overview

            Exodus: After the Israelites left Egypt, God had them move back and forth so that Pharaoh would think they were wondering. Pharaoh and his servants change their minds and pursue Israel. When Israel sees Pharaoh with all his chariots and army coming, they are frightened blaming Moses for taking them into the desert to die. Moses tells the people not to fear for God will fight their battle. The Lord had gone before them as a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire at night. The Lord moves between Israel and Pharaoh’s army then tells Moses to stretch out his staff over the sea. The Lord parts the waters and dries up the ground so that the people can pass to the other side. The Egyptians pursue but God bogs down their chariots then brings the water back over them so they all drown.
            Moses and the people celebrate with a song that records God’s triumph over Egypt. They exalt God and praise him. The song also reveals that the surrounding nations will become aware of everything going on and will be in terror. They believe God will bring them into the promised land and exclaim that the Lord will reign forever.
            Psalm 26: David asks God to vindicate him and test his heart and mind. He recounts his own goodness and innocence. He speaks of his love for God’s tabernacle. So he asks not to be wiped out with sinners because he walks in integrity. Yet he asks to be redeemed.
            Proverbs: This is a list of seven things God considers abominations.
            Matthew: Jesus returns to the temple the day after cleaning it out and begins to teach. The chief priests and elders come to him and asking by what authority he did this. Jesus says he will tell them if they will tell where received his John’s authority. They don’t want to admit John was a prophet so they say they don’t know and Jesus refuses to answer their question.
            Jesus then tells a parable about two sons who were told to work in the vineyard. One says he won’t but later does. The other says he will but doesn’t. Jesus uses it to explain that sinners are entering the kingdom of God before the chief priests and elders because sinners listened to John but chief priests and elders have not.
            He tells another parable about a man who leased his vineyard to tenants while he went away. When his servants come to get some of the fruit, they are beaten, stoned, or killed. He sends his son and they kill him expecting to inherit the vineyard. Jesus asks what will happen to the tenants and the chief priests and elders answer that the tenants will be killed and the vineyard will be leased to those who will give the owner fruit.
            Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23 about the stone the builders rejected. The explanation of the parable is that the kingdom of God will be taken away from the chief priests and elders and given people who will produce fruit. He then refers to himself as being the stone.
            The chief priests and Pharisees hear it, they knew he was talking about them but they won’t arrest him because they fear the people.

What Stood Out

            Exodus: “At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap;
the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea” (Ex 15:8).
            Psalm: “Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind” (Ps 26:2).
            Proverbs: “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him” (Prov 6:16).
            Matthew: “Which of the two [sons who were told to work in the vineyard] did the will of his father?” (Matt 21:31).

Insight

            Exodus: Many people do not believe the miracles of the Bible. When it comes to Israel crossing the Red Sea, they make up all sorts of stories about how it was a low tide and the wind has been known to do the same thing in other areas. However, I would like to point out that these natural solutions are invented only because people are just like Pharaoh. They are hardhearted. They believe what they want in spite of the clear evidence in the Bible that this had to be the hand of God. Several key verses in this account disprove all of the natural explanations.
1.      The sea parted when Moses lifted up his staff (Ex 14:21). The wind didn’t blow until Moses obeyed God.
2.      The wind could have dried out the ground but it’s unlikely dry enough for two million people to walk on it. The land is described as dry land (Ex 14:22).
3.      The water was deep. It is described as a wall on either side (Ex 14:22, 29). It would take a hurricane force wind to do that. How would they be able to walk through the midst of the sea with that kind of wind?
4.      The water returned when Moses again stretched out his staff (Ex 14:26-27). Again, this is no coincidence.
5.      The waters were so deep that it covered the chariots and horsemen (Ex 14:28, 15:4-5). They are described as sinking (Ex 15:10).
6.      The waters are described as piling up and congealing (Ex 15:8). The NIV says, “The surging waters stood firm like a wall” (Ex 15:8 NIV 1984).
            The overwhelming evidence from this is that it was God’s work. It is not hard to understand that God did it when you also look back at the plagues of Egypt. It takes a hard heart to relegate this to nature.
            Beside the physical evidence, God also reveals his purpose in these miracles. He is glorified to all (Ex 15:11-12). His unfailing love is shown to his people (Ex 15:13). The nations will be in fear of him (Ex 15:14-16) and his reign will be known to last forever (Ex 15:18).
            We should all fall down and worship the Lord who has done all this.
            Psalm: This is a strange Psalm because it paints David to be a very self-righteous person. Yes, he asks God to test him but throughout, he describes all of his uprightness and steadfastness. I can only conclude that he wrote this long before his affair with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah. While we should ask God to test us and prove us, we should not become so blinded to our sin that we congratulate ourselves that are on the right path. Paul refers back to events in the Old Testament and tells us that these were written for our instruction. He then warns us, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12).
            Proverbs: All sin is an abomination to God. However, he lists seven in these verses. Sure, we would agree with murder as an abomination and most of us would include unborn babies. We don’t always see lying as an abomination, especially those little “white” lies. Look up abomination in a concordance and see how often it is used with God’s feelings about specific sins. Things show up like homosexuality (Lev 18:22, 20:13), worshiping other gods (Deut 7:25), offering blemished sacrifices (Deut 17:1), and occult activities (Deut 18:12). When it gets right down to it, any of us who are not forgiven and have received a new heart are an abomination because Proverbs 11:20 says, “Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the Lord.” There is no way out of it. All sin is an abomination to the Lord.
            Matthew: I always enjoy the way Jesus turns the tables on the Pharisees and others who are trying to trap him. The chief priests and elders won’t answer Jesus so Jesus says he won’t answer them. But his two parables that follow really are an answer.
            I’ve heard people say that delayed obedience is still disobedience. I wouldn’t doubt that every pastor has said it at least once in a sermon. I agree that when we delay doing what we are called to do, it is disobedience. However, Jesus was not looking at the path of resistance but the end of the journey when he ask his question about who obeyed the father who asked his sons to work in the vineyard. One said he would and didn’t. That was obviously disobedience. The other said he wouldn’t but later went and worked. That was called obedience. The chief priest rightly answered that the one who actually worked did the father’s will. Jesus uses this to explain that it isn’t those who do lip service who are obedient but those who actually repent and do the work. That is why sinners enter the kingdom of God and the self-righteous don’t. They don’t obey. Technically, when someone delays, they are in the process of disobedience, but once they obey they have crossed over into obedience. When it comes to salvation, then in God’s sight, it is full and complete obedience.
            Jesus uses this to convict the chief priest and Pharisees who say they are obeying God but are not. He goes on to drill deeper into their sinful attitudes with the parable of the rented vineyard. We always look at this and say, “Whew, I’m glad that I’m not in their shoes.” But we certainly can be. If we are not producing fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), then we are exactly the same as the chief priest and Pharisees. We are like the tenants that have received all the goodness of this life but have kept the Son of God out. What is the end of those who believe they are in the kingdom of God but don’t act like it? “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons” (Matt 21:41). Remember delayed obedience when it comes to salvation is the same as obedience. It’s never too late to repent and live a transformed life in Jesus if we’re still alive.

Application

             It’s easy for me to be like David in the Psalm. I ask God to search me and test me, but the reality is that my hidden sins are just that, hidden. So I trust that they will come out and I’ll obey and repent as they are exposed.
 

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