Snapshots: Day 77

Snapshots: Day 77

The Snapshot: “I will wipe them out” (Ex 23:23) How we fail so often to read our Bible completely. We grab a few words and complain without understanding. Here we have the source of so many complaints in God’s intent for Canaan – but read it in its entirety, read on to verse 30. See: the word ‘drive’ that follows. God will drive the enemy out – but not completely. “wipe out” = totally remove current existence. How? By driving them out. It will be their choice. Leave and survive. Stay and fight Israel and risk death. You will find the idea of ‘driving them out’ well over thirty times in the records. This is not genocide as so many foolish people say. This is God who says, “This is my land for my people, take your terrible and horrible pagan practices away – and stop them!”  Be understanding.

Further Consideration: How often we find the critics rolling out this complaint about a God who commands genocide. How such critics reveal both their own poverty of spirit and poverty of knowledge!  Check the facts and then speak. Note the options again.

Option 1: Leave and survive. This actually was the most sensible choice and perhaps a few took it. The records show that the fear of the Lord went ahead of Israel, the reputation of Israel’s early conquests in the south as they approached the land from the south and the east. These were a victorious people. It’s time to leave! Clearly the word went out ahead of them, followed by fear. Most people forget this.

Option 2: Stay and fight.  It says something about what holds you when a Tsunami bears down on you. You have to be pretty stupid to stay – but then that is the effect of the occult which bound this land, occult fueled by godless, merciless sacrifices of children and many other occult practices. The demonic always seeks to extend Satan’s desire to destroy mankind.

Option 3: Join Israel.  Again most people forget that Rahab and the Gibeonites were examples of those who responded wisely to the fear of God and aligned themselves with Israel and became part of them, part of the people of God.

So, ‘wipe them out’ actually means remove entirely this old life dominated by the world, by Satan and by Sin. It will be achieved initially by seeking to ‘drive out’ these things but where they refuse to capitulate, they will be put to death.  Failure to put them to death will mean they will remain as pockets of resistance that will cause ongoing problems, things which God will in fact make use of to discipline us. There is so much here, so many truths to be understood, so much that unfortunately we so often allow the enemy to cover with a smokescreen of self-righteous indignation built on our poverty of spirit and poverty of knowledge. Let’s resist, learn and be changed.

(As we consider these in blocks of ten, tomorrow we will move on to a new series on Parables)

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Snapshots: Day 76

Snapshots: Day 76

The Snapshot: “Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me.” (Ex 23:14) Life, even five hundred years ago, was much harder than it is today. The struggle was to survive (ours is how to make the most of life and get meaning out if it), but the clue to success then as now, was how to maintain a relationship with the Lord and follow His leadings (laws, prophets etc. Today for us, His word and His Spirit). But that ‘remembering’ God was not a hard, legal thing, it involved feasts, major times of feasting and celebrating. Imagine Independence Day and a coronation celebration all rolled into one and lasting a week. These were reminders of God, of His goodness in the past and in the present. We are a people of remembrance and celebration and feasting. Let’s do it!

Further Consideration: The apostle James wrote, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.” (Jas 1:17) In that he was presenting in shorthand the truth that all good things we have come from God. Israel – and all humanity for that matter – could not believe that. When God delivered them from Egypt, they grumbled at every turn. They could not believe that the One who had done such amazing things in dealing with Pharaoh and releasing them from slavery in Egypt, could now provide for them all the way through the desert and then into the Promised Land. All they had to do when things ran short, was ask! Instead they grumbled; they had not realized that the God of deliverance is also the God of loving provision.

He promised them His presence, He promised them His provision, and He promised them His protection, and yet they failed again and again to believe that. Now whenever I say this, I have to add the rider, this was not because they were uniquely bad, it simply meant that they revealed what we are ALL like. Now we are Christians we may have forgotten that (to our peril!) but the thing about sin is that it blinds us to the truth.

So one of the ways the Lord sought to overcome this was to institute these three feasts to be celebrated each year: (a) the Feast of Unleavened Bread to remember the Exodus (held pre-harvest), (b) the Feast of Harvest, or Pentecost or First Fruits (part way through harvest) and (c) Feast of Ingathering or Tabernacles at the end of harvest. At each Feast, every celebrant had to come aside from the daily round of work and whole-heartedly give themselves to the current celebration. Note they are celebrations appreciating the Lord and appreciating His provision for them. I wonder if we have let our ‘religion’ become too ordinary? I wonder whether we need to institute more celebrations and thanksgivings to overcome that?

Snapshots: Day 75

Snapshots: Day 75

The Snapshot: “These are the laws you are to set before them.” (Ex 21:1) Many people don’t like ‘laws’ but the Laws of Moses are a sign of God’s love. They were clues to how He had designed us to live, how a community can live at peace, how things can be put right when we mess up, how to live differently and distinctly from the pagan nations surrounding them, how to live healthily dealing with various health problems that crop up in this fallen world  and, of course, how to relate to Him. They were specifically for Israel (and not us – many people don’t realize this), an agrarian society that was uniquely called to be God’s people. As Christians we have different ‘laws’ in the New Testament, all enhancing the wonder of our relationship with God through Jesus.

Further Consideration: We have been considering the ‘rules’ we find in the New Testament that guide us in our walk with Christ, rules which, I would suggest, reflect the laws of Moses in their purposes. They tell us how He has designed us to live in Christ, (e.g. Eph 2:1-10) forgiven and cleansed by his work on the Cross, now empowered by His Spirit. They show us how to be put right with God when we mess up (1 Jn 1:9, 2:1,2), how we can live differently from our neighbors (Rom 12:2), how to deal with health issues (Jas 5:14-16) and how to relate to Him (e.g. Phil 4:6,7). As you read through your New Testament watch out for these things and you will see many more instances of each of them. But there are two important things to be said.

First, keeping these laws or rules are not what enables us to be a Christian. We do not earn our salvation by rule-keeping; we receive it by believing in Jesus, that he is the Son of God who has died and risen again and is seated at the Father’s right hand, ruling in the midst of his enemies. The ‘rules’ are just ways we live out this new relationship with God that Jesus Has earned for us.

Second, these ‘rules’ distinguish us from our non-Christian neighbour and our call to him or her is not to follow the rules but to believe in Jesus. Our ‘rule-keeping’ is to demonstrate the wisdom and way of God that has been opened up to us through Christ. Don’t expect your unbelieving neighbour to follow and understand these same rules, because they cannot do that except as an outworking of the faith they have come to accept (hopefully) in Christ. The Laws of Moses and the rules of the New Testament reveal the love, goodness and wisdom of God. Some of those laws are strange to us because they reflected the pagan lives and practices around them to be avoided. Another reason why they are not for us. We have our own in Christ.

Snapshots: Day 74

Snapshots: Day 74

The Snapshot: “I am the Lord your God.” (Ex 20:2) God introduces the Ten Commandments with this description of Himself. He continues, “who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”  As we said previously, not just a title but the experiential reality. Yes, the title is right. Even if He had done nothing else, He was still their Lord, but He had actually demonstrated it. When He says to the Christian, “I am the Lord your God,” it is a statement of reality but He can also add, “because I have delivered you out of that old sin-driven, guilt-laden, self-destructive life of a slave to the enemy.” Because of that He now has the right to declare the way we are made or designed to live. Let’s heed His directions.

Further Consideration: In the previous study I recounted how, in my early days as a Christian, I began to learn that my New Testament was full of exhortations on how to live under the Lordship of Christ, ways to live the new life and receive all the goodness God had for me – and that came as I followed or obeyed those exhortations that I found there in His word.

As I look back now to these words from Exodus 20 I realize the same process is operating today in me as operated back then. Back then the Lord established His credibility with the people of Israel by reminding them what He had done for them by delivering them out of slavery in Egypt. He had, if you like, proved Himself. They could trust Him and rely upon Him because He had clearly shown that He was for them in the way He had delivered them out of Pharaoh’s hands and started them on the journey to the Promised Land. It was still early days but there was plenty to remember about what God had done.

But now, the same is true for us. When we read through the Gospels and we see what Jesus went through in dying for us, we start to catch something of the wonder of God’s love that could go through all of that – Jesus leaving the wonder and security of heaven to come and live as a human being down here, going through the rejection he experienced from the religious world, being betrayed, falsely tried, condemned and crucified and for a moment appearing to be utterly cut off from the experience of the love of his Father that he had known throughout eternity. This is love!

But then we come across all the instructions on how to live out this new life that we find in the New Testament, that we referred to in the previous study, and we realize all of these are founded on the same love that took the Son to the Cross, a love focused on us, looking all the time for our blessing.  That is what is behind all these instructions and so I would be foolish to ignore this incredible love in these

Snapshots: Day 73

Snapshots: Day 73

The Snapshot: “out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” (Ex 19:5) Chosen. A mixed blessing. On the one hand the amazing blessing of having encounter after encounter with the living God, but the other side of the coin is all about obedience: “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” We cannot fully enter into the experience of being a ‘treasured possession’ without obedience because the blessings flow when we do the stuff He has said. There is a difference between being it and experiencing it. I am a father but unless I relate to my children it is a meaningless title. Just calling yourself a Christian or genuinely entering into the fullness of the experience? Title or reality?

Further Consideration: I suspect we take for granted much of what has happened to us to make us Christians. Perhaps our conversion experience was many years ago and we forget the process that we went through – or maybe we weren’t even fully aware of the life-crisis we went through that brought us to the end of ourselves so we surrendered to God through Christ. However it happened, it was ultimately a time of surrender; we gave up our old lives, we died to them as Paul says in Romans, and we surrendered to allow Jesus be our Saviour and then go on and be lord of our lives, to lead us and guide us and teach us and change us. In the apostle Peter’s words we are, “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” (1 Pet 2:9) That is our equivalent to God’s words to Israel on Mount Sinai. That was the starting point. l

Perhaps we started reading our Bible, and the New Testament in particular and suddenly we became aware that there were lots of do’s and don’ts in the writings of the apostles and we came to realize that obeying these were part of the package of Jesus being Lord. I remember first really studying Hebrews. Chapter 1, all about Jesus was wonderful. Then came chapter 2: “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” (Heb 2:1) Wow! It is possible to drift away? I must pay attention to all I am reading and hearing on a Sunday morning! Lot’s more explanations and then, “let us hold firmly to the faith we profess,” (Heb 4:14) but then, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.” (v.16) Not only exhortations to hold on to what I am receiving against the enemy attacks but exhortation to come to God and come confidently. That is reassuring. This new life, I learned, was going to be a combination of a battle against the lies of the enemy, and receiving the good things God had for me, and entering into them through the powerful word – obedience. Back then, and still now.

Snapshots: Day 72

Snapshots: Day 72

The Snapshot: “Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain” (Ex 19:3) Encounter, in fact a close encounter of the God kind. James said, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” So often people say, “God seems so far away,” but is that because we don’t go looking for Him? How do you do that? Spend some time on your own in silence, first asking Him to draw near, and then waiting, then daring to believe what you are ‘hearing’ in your mind. The Sinai encounter is a proof that God wants to communicate with His people. Read His word, ask Him to speak to you through it. Take time, read, be still, listen and look at the words you have just read, listen again and dare to believe what you are ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’.

Further Consideration: Why do we fail to go seeking God, spending time alone waiting on him, listening for Him to speak? I recently was studying Isa 55 which starts, “Come, all you who are thirsty.”  It all starts with our heart and sometimes it is the recognition that I am thirsty. Jesus taught, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.” (Jn 7:37) In Isa 55 after that initial call there is no more talk of drinking but it becomes clear that drinking is a response to “listen to me.” (Isa 55:2) When we come to Jesus, conscious of our need, conscious that he is the one who can satisfy that need, we will wait on him, we will ‘go up the mountain’ to meet him.

Going up the mountain speaks of making the effort to go looking for God, taking time and making the effort to seek Him. The strange thing is that it takes no effort to sit still and listen, except the effort to overcome the instinctive desire to get up and do something. So many things call to us for our attention, things we need to do, things we ‘ought’ to do. Martha is the classic illustration of this (Lk 10:38-42) and she nearly missed the opportunity of sitting with Jesus, like Mary her sister was doing, because she allowed her mind to be filled with all the ‘necessary’ things around the home that were calling to her.

Sometimes we will ‘go up the mountain’ because we hear the specific call of God to do that, like Moses, but other times we will do it because we recognize, like Isaiah, that we are hungry and thirsty and that we are spending time and effort on that which “does not satisfy” (Isa 55:3) and we are fed up with that. Sometimes we have to arrive at a desert place before we recognize the symptoms – dryness and barrenness (lack of fruit or achievement in life) – and realize that nothing but being in the Lord’s presence can change that. Only then will we forsake the busy-ness of life and step aside and go and seek the Lord ‘up the mountain’. It is the place of cleansing, forgiveness, refreshing, renewing and restoring. Go climb the mountain.

Snapshots: Day 71

Snapshots: Day 71

The Snapshot: “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said” (Ex 18:24) I find this amazing. Moses is the great leader, the follower of Jehovah, the one who experiences intimacy with God, and yet he listens to this older man. The misguided believe that instant Internet access makes us wise because we can find out anything, which means that few express the humility that is described here, in listening to the wisdom of the aged. The arrogance that comes with ‘instant knowledge’ bolsters pride and becomes a stumbling block to many so only the falls through the years will teach wisdom when the easier way had been rejected. How sad, how foolish. May we listen and learn from Moses and Jethro and short-cut the pain.

Further Consideration: This snapshot reveals a deception that is so wide and so prevalent today that it is not only seriously worrying but is tragic, the belief that “I am greater than my forebears because I know – I have all this information at my fingertips. I am wise.”

Deception!  Wisdom comes either as a special gift from God or with the experience of years, experience that has involved failure, patience, perseverance, endurance. These are the things that form wisdom.

And then of course, “The fear of the Lord is beginning of wisdom.” A complete submission to God, a trust in His wisdom, His ways, His salvation, His word, His Holy Spirit. Again these are the things that go to form wisdom.

Wisdom also involves honour and respect for the aged, if for no other reason than they have been there, done it and survived. I come across aging church leaders who have endured and struggled and fought the battles of the years, some have large churches and large churches mean bigger problems, greater experience. These are men and women who have done things many of us don’t even dream about, they have been beaten and bruised, and these are people who deserve our respect and honour.

I remember one leader, now passed on I believe, who used to say when he was young he would find a senior leader and try and be with them to learn whatever they had learned. That was wisdom. He knew that such a person had so much of value that quick searches of the Internet cannot bring up. Experience of life.

But you won’t get it unless you learn to sit down and build a relationship with such a person and then just listen to them, question them about their life – we all have amazing stories to tell which convey truths about the walk with the Lord – and hear truths about successes and failures, things they have learnt the hard way, the way of walking this uneven path in this fallen world – with God!