Saturday, February 4, 2017

February 4: Exodus 19:16-21:21; Psalm 28; Proverbs 7:1-5; Matthew 23:13-23:39



Overview

            Exodus: God comes down on Mount Sinai to meet the people of Israel. He appears with thunder, lightning, and dark cloud along with trumpet blasts. The mountain shakes and the people tremble. God calls Moses up and tells him to go back down to warn the people not to touch the mountain. He also tells him to bring Aaron with him.
            God then gives Moses the Ten Commandments. It appears that this is while he is at the bottom of the mountain with the people. The people saw and heard nothing but lightning, thunder, a trumpet, and the mountain smoking. They tell Moses to speak with God and then relay it on to them because they are afraid they will die if God speaks to them. Moses tells them not to be afraid because God is testing them so they won’t sin. Moses draws closer and they stand far off.
            God then starts prescribing many laws. The first is about altars to offer sacrifices. The next is about Hebrew slaves. Included are regulations about what to do for various situations when a person or slave is killed or beaten.
            Psalm: David calls on the Lord to hear him. He doesn’t want to be cast away like evil doers and recounts some of their evils. He asks God to deal with them according to their evil. He praises the Lord for listening to him and reaffirms his trust in the Lord. He asks the Lord to save the people take care of them forever.
            Proverbs: Solomon again instructs his son to treasure his commandments so that he will live and keep from adultery.
            Matthew: Jesus continues hammering on the Pharisees and scribes about their hypocrisy. One huge portion is how they swear by different things. He explains that swearing by “lesser thing” is the same as swearing by the things that make them holy and untimely that means God. He points out their hypocrisy because they are precise in the way they tithe but neglect more important things in the Law like mercy and justice. They keep outward tenets of the Law but don’t consider their inward unrighteousness.
            Jesus also points out their hypocrisy in saying that they would not have killed the prophets, yet they are seeking how to stop him. They will eventually crucify Jesus.
            Jesus then laments over Jerusalem. He would love to have them all come to him, but that won’t happen until he comes again.

What Stood Out

            Exodus: “The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was” (Ex 20:21).
            Psalm: “If you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit” (Ps 28:1).
            Proverbs: “Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call insight your intimate friend” (Prov 7:4).
            Matthew: “You travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matt 23:15).

Insight

            Exodus: How often do we behave like the people of Israel? We stand off at a distance and don’t want to get too close to God. Sure, God gave them an awesome display of his glory. I would think that we would probably tremble and be afraid as well. However, there is not one mention in this reading that Moses feared God in the way the people did. He saw the burning bush and was amazed at that small show of God’s power. But he had never seen God in the thick darkness, lightning, thunder, and trumpet sound. During the plagues and the escape from the Egyptians as well as a few months in the desert, Moses drew closer to God. The people grumbled and stood a far way off. There must be a lesson there for us.
            When we stand off and let our pastor or teachers spoon-feed us from the Bible without really digging in and learning about God and getting to know him, we are just like the Israelites. Without getting into a theological debate about when and how Jesus will come back, think about this. If Jesus were to appear right now, how many would be afraid and how many would run out to meet him? Many people really don’t want Jesus to come back right now because they have some things they still want to get done. I’ve heard some people give me a list of why they wouldn’t be all that happy if Jesus came back right now. That shows they have idols that are more important than God.
            Psalm: A thought struck me seeing that David felt as if he would go down to the pit if God doesn’t hear and answer him. The descriptions in the verses that follow certainly express the feeling that without an answer from God, he is no better than the wicked. As in many of the Psalms, David snaps out of the depressing thoughts to praise God.
            What about me? If I don’t get answers to my prayers, do I feel like I’m going to die? I think many of us do feel that way. Even worse, many think that way when God doesn’t answer in the way we have specified in our prayers. To me, that isn’t what I think about when I ask God to hear me. If I thought God didn’t hear me, I would be devastated. It would prove that I was not his child. I can and do rest on the many promises that God does hear me. I don’t have to be asking for something, I just want to talk with him. When I trust in his goodness I know that not only does he hear, but when I do ask for something, he answers in what is best for me and others to bring about his glory.
            Proverbs: It is amazing how many proverbs are directly related to wisdom, but that wisdom is provided to stay away from sexual sins. This must certainly tell us something about one of the biggest problems people have.
            Matthew: This reading is 99% about hypocrisy. It is easy to read all these woes and think that none of them applies to me. If so, then I am just like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable who prayed, “I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). Rather, I need to look at my life to see if I’m being legalistic while ignoring mercy and justice. One of the things we are supposed to do is go and make disciples (Matt 28:19). A disciple is one who learns to imitate and do the same things as his teacher. I need to be more like Jesus so that anyone I disciple can be more like him instead of me. The last thing I want is to have a disciple become “twice as much a child of hell” as me (Matt 23:15). I need to be careful about my own hypocrisy or that’s what will happen.
            I never really understood what Jesus meant when said, “Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers” (Matt 23:31-32). I thought it was strange that Jesus would blame them for their ancestor’s sins. So, today, I understood. Because he knew they were going to crucify him and persecute his church, they were just like their ancestors. They were claiming to walk with God but they were about to do the very same things their ancestors did. The bottom line is that had I been there I would have been one of those helping crucify Jesus. I have to admit how much I needed saving just as much as any of them.

Application

             I need to a lot better job drawing close to the Lord. I don’t want to stand far off and I don’t want to feel like he doesn’t hear me. I don’t want to make my faith based on doing things rather than on being in Jesus’ presence.
 

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