Daily Devotional – Monday, May 31, 2021
“All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me.” (John 14:23-24a, NLT)
Ever since the first man and woman rebelled against God, humanity’s condition is one of utter depravity. Sin has infected the ‘good’ of God’s creation; we are left now to wrestle with the resulting chaos in nature and with a spiritual cancer that has infected the heart of every human being who has ever lived…yours and mine, too. We as a race, under the unchecked influence of sin, are each capable of unspeakable evil…yes, all of us. Take a recent discovery that made the news this weekend: the remains of 215 children have been found at one of Canada’s residential schools. Many of us are left deeply grieved and angry. This is what humanity apart from God is capable of…and worse.
As I’ve read the articles that have been written in quick succession over this past weekend and people’s responses, I note that many are quick to condemn the government and religious institutions for the mind-boggling abuses that were perpetrated and then for the years of willful resistance to uncover the truth. There are definitely some hard questions that need to be answered and dare I say other ‘skeletons’ to expose. We should be demanding answers of those organizations that allowed abuse to occur, not only unchecked, but state-sanctioned. Canada’s history is in fact littered with stories that make modern-day Canadians cringe as they are unearthed. Canada’s First Nations, Afro-Canadians, Eastern European immigrants (WWI) and those of Japanese descent (WWII) have all endured the ugliness of humanity in the Canadian context. Stories of past historical atrocities can shock us for the sheer disregard of human life. And lest we think that this is all in the past, think again!
We look for someone to take the blame when these abuses come to light; after all shouldn’t someone have to answer for and pay for these crimes? In this weekend’s headlines, I have noted the accusations flung at the Catholic Church. Many priests and nuns have been guilty of the abuse, having participated actively or through their silence. The fact that their crimes were committed while ‘doing work in the name of God’ makes the abuse that much more heinous. Our reactions, however, do not get to the root of the issue. The uncovering of these past abuses has exposed for all the world to see a great fallacy that has been and continues to be rampant, especially in our Christian communities—that somehow religious affiliation can replace relationship with God; that the appearance of religiosity is sufficient without a transformation of heart; that humanity is capable of defeating the sin nature within all of us simply through ‘good works’ without giving control over our lives to God.
People were created in God’s image, but that image has become corrupted. The spiritual cancer of sin has infected us all. There is no escaping it on our own, and as much as we want someone to blame, the pointed finger will always bend itself back around to point at each one of us. Only by turning to the One who made us and loves us will we ever escape the grip of sin on our hearts. God knows the difference between those who call themselves ‘Christians’ and those who have actually submitted themselves to obeying Him. We may fool one another, we may even convince ourselves, but there is no getting this one by God. We can either accept God’s help to control the sin that is in our lives or remain susceptible to its deadly ruination.
~ Pastor Jane
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, May 30, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Never Forget” – Communion & Sharing Sunday
Text – Exodus 12-13, 15:1-21, Matthew 26:17-30, John 14:23-29
In preparing for this morning, I was reminded again of the strong connection between God’s rescue of the Hebrews from their slavery in Egypt and of the rescue from enslavement to sin that Jesus has provided the world. On this Communion Sunday, it is good for us to recognize the precursor that God provided of His ultimate plan of salvation that this morning’s story from Exodus provides us with. Last week we left Moses and Aaron in the palace of the Pharaoh being ordered to, ‘Get out. Take everything and everyone with you!”
This morning, I want to begin by taking a step back to an earlier event that immediately preceded Pharaoh’s final expulsion of the Hebrews from Egypt.
PAY ATTENTION…AND REMEMBER– Exodus 12:1-14
“While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the Lord gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron: 2 “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you. 3 Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household. 4 If a family is too small to eat a whole animal, let them share with another family in the neighborhood. Divide the animal according to the size of each family and how much they can eat. 5 The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects.
6 “Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight. 7 They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal. 8 That same night they must roast the meat over a fire and eat it along with bitter salad greens and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat any of the meat raw or boiled in water. The whole animal—including the head, legs, and internal organs—must be roasted over a fire. 10 Do not leave any of it until the next morning. Burn whatever is not eaten before morning.
11 “These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the Lord’s Passover. 12 On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the Lord! 13 But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.
14 “This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time.”
God was about to bring the final plague upon the land of Egypt—the death of the firstborn. He chose this time not to simply prevent the plague from impacting the land of Goshen, but required the Hebrews to host a special meal in order to participate in God’s rescue. Their act of obedience was to serve as a tangible reminder, to be enacted annually, of how God had worked on their behalf to bring them out of Egypt.
The Hebrews are told to celebrate the Passover with a meal, but with very specific directions. They are to eat their meal in haste—a roasted lamb or young goat, with bitter salad greens and flat bread—fully clothed and ready to travel. The blood of the animal is to be painted on the sides and lintel of the door as it will serve as a protection for all those inside. When the Lord sees it, He’ll “pass over.”
When you think about it, it wouldn’t have made much sense to them. Eating, but prepared to make a run for it. Why the hurry? No yeast in their bread. What’s God got against yeast? Bitter greens. Yech! The death of an animal to prevent the death of a loved one. How does death stop death? They could have simply refused. Yes, they have Moses’ instructions, but they didn’t fully know how things were going to play out or even why these precise directions were necessary. However, the Bible doesn’t record any hesitancy on the parts of the slaves to comply…at least not this time. They have witnessed the last nine plagues—whether directly experienced or observed from afar—which have given credence to Moses’ instructions. So, they obey. And when the order is given to leave immediately, they may have experienced some organized chaos, but they’re ready.
But how does this story directly connect to Jesus, beyond obvious ancestry?
Matthew 26:17-19, 26-30
“On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?’ 18Jesus told them, ‘As you go into the city you will see a certain man. Tell him, “The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.”’ 19 So the disciples did as Jesus told them and prepared the Passover meal there…
As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, ‘Take this and eat it, for this is my body.’ 27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, ‘Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which confirms the new covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. 29 Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.’
30 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.”
Jesus himself lead the disciples through the Passover meal, but applied it, not to their ancestors’ miraculous escape from Egypt, but directly to what was about to happen to and through him. Through the Passover meal, he was providing them an ongoing means of remembering the sacrifice he would make for the world. He was the final sacrificial lamb that would ever need to be offered up to secure humanity’s salvation. It was his body that would be killed and his blood that would be spilled so that those who obey Him will be protected from spiritual death. You may not have considered this fact, but in the Church, we are in actual fact celebrating a spiritual Passover remembrance each time we partake in communion.
But first back to our story…We know from last week’s lesson that the Hebrews had been protected from the destruction of their firstborn and were now hastily evicted from Egypt, but they still weren’t ‘out of the woods’ so to speak. God wasn’t done with His plan for Egypt and her king. There were still those who refused to acknowledge His supremacy. So, shortly after having told the Hebrews to, ‘get out’, the Pharaoh and others once again had a change of heart and set out to kill and/or reclaim their property—the Hebrew slaves.
Word had gotten back to Pharaoh that the Hebrews appeared to be lost, walking around in circles, and had hemmed themselves in, the Red Sea blocking their escape. With hearts once again hardened, the Egyptians rushed to exact their vengeance. As the dust of their approaching chariots rose in the air, the recently freed slaves’ horror also rose with it.
REMEMBER…AND TRUST THE PLAN – Exodus 14:13-31
“13 But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.’
15 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! 16 Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will charge in after the Israelites. My great glory will be displayed through Pharaoh and his troops, his chariots, and his charioteers. 18 When my glory is displayed through them, all Egypt will see my glory and know that I am the Lord!’
19 Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. 20 The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. But the Egyptians and Israelites did not approach each other all night.
21 Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. 22 So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side! 23 Then the Egyptians—all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and charioteers—chased them into the middle of the sea. 24 But just before dawn the Lord looked down on the Egyptian army from the pillar of fire and cloud, and he threw their forces into total confusion. 25 He twisted their chariot wheels, making their chariots difficult to drive. ‘Let’s get out of here—away from these Israelites!’ the Egyptians shouted. ‘The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt!’
26 When all the Israelites had reached the other side, the Lord said to Moses, ‘Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back and cover the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers.’ 27 So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the water rushed back into its usual place. The Egyptians tried to escape, but the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 Then the waters returned and covered all the chariots and charioteers—the entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived.
29 But the people of Israel had walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, as the water stood up like a wall on both sides. 30 That is how the Lord rescued Israel from the hand of the Egyptians that day. And the Israelites saw the bodies of the Egyptians washed up on the seashore. 31 When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses.”
Despite the evidence of the plagues and their enacted Passover feast, the Hebrews still hadn’t learned the crucial need to ‘remember.’ Each new crisis took them back to ground zero—this would be just the first of many such times. Their seeming incapacity to remember, prevented them from learning to trust God, and left them fearful when faced with obstacles. God had a plan that He shared freely with Moses, but the enemy barreling down on them exposed their lack of faith. Their refusal to recall what God had done for them in the recent past, would continue to dog them throughout their years of wandering in the wilderness. Each time the people faced a crisis they panicked, got angry or grumbled.
I don’t know about you, but I do not want my faith in God to resemble that of the Hebrew slaves—perpetually moving from panic to praise and then back again. We too are called to remember and trust ‘The Plan.’ We are children of our heavenly Father, who has a plan—He wants us to trust Him without reservation.
“Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
27 I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.”
Just as God revealed His plan to the Hebrews through Moses, God has already revealed His plan to us through His Son. Jesus is coming back! In the meantime, Jesus has given us his gifts of peace of mind and heart, and in His place we have the Advocate—the Holy Spirit—to guide us, just as the angel of the Lord and the pillar of cloud and fire guided the Hebrews throughout their time in the wilderness.
Remembering what God has already done and has promised to do should fill us with hope for the future, no matter what obstacles we may find ourselves facing today. We know from Scripture, from Church history, and even from our own testimonies that God is good, He rescues and He fulfills His promises. Amen? [Amen!]
We need to remind ourselves that we are no longer slaves—neither to sin, death nor any of the evil influences of this world. Our daily challenge is to remember what Jesus has done on our behalf so that we can continue in freedom—from fear, anxiety, the need to control and all manner of enslavements that act as barriers between us and God.
Remembering also provides us with the ability to trust in God more fully and can give us strength to endure, even in seasons of uncertainty and persecution. Because today is ‘Communion & Sharing’ Sunday, I wanted to share two quick stories of fellow believers who know persecution for their faith firsthand:
Voice of the Martyr – The Church in China – It is reported, that persecution of Christians today in China has reached and is surpassing the level of persecution experienced during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.
Story #1 – Zhao Weikai, Church Leader in China
“Zhao Weikai is a leader of the Xuncheng Reformed Church in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, China. The church had been raided in November 2020 and again on December 30th, when security officers disrupted a Bible study in the home of Pastor An Yankui (see this report).
In the early morning of May 17th, Zhao's home was raided by approximately 20 police officers. Without providing a warrant, the officers seized computer equipment and books. Zhao and his wife Li Xin were taken for questioning under charges of "proselytism." Li was released that evening, but Zhao was ordered to serve a 15-day administrative detention. Several times in the past, Zhao had been "invited" to "talk" with police because of his refusal to abide by the religious mandates of the Chinese Communist Party.” Would you continue to live your faith so bravely as Zhao and his wife do under those circumstances?
Story #2 – Dr. Bob Fu, founder of ChinaAid
“For many years, ChinaAid, an organization founded by Dr. Bob Fu, has been a significant voice for Christians in China. As a partner of The Voice of the Martyrs, they have worked to expose the abuses of the Chinese government, encourage the persecuted, and equip leaders to defend the rights of citizens so they can experience the blessings of faith and freedom.
This week's story from China (Zhao’s) is only one of the many that have come to our attention through the tireless work of our friends at ChinaAid. It is for this reason that we extend our heartiest congratulations to Dr. Fu upon receiving the 2021 Wilberforce Award. The words of VOMC's Chief Executive Officer, Floyd Brobbel, aptly describe Dr. Fu's tenacity: "Bob is an example of one who uses his freedom to serve those who are bound. There is no 'quit' in Bob when raising a voice for his persecuted brothers and sisters in China."
The Wilberforce Award was established in 1988 to recognize distinguished Christian leaders who exemplify the principles and commitment of William Wilberforce, an English statesman who waged a 40-year campaign which led to the abolition of slavery in Britain. VOMC joins in acknowledging the significant impact Dr. Fu has made throughout the world. To learn more about the work of ChinaAid, go to www.chinaaid.org.”
Bob Fu has dedicated his life to serving God and His Church. Do we live lives that demonstrate that we are God’s Ambassadors—planet earth is not our home? Do we refuse to ‘quit’ when working in and for God’s Kingdom?
Never underestimate the value of remembering God’s obvious work on our behalf and recalling to mind the promises contained in Scripture.
What do we do in the face of crisis? Does our story read like the Hebrews? Or will we follow the example of our brothers and sisters in China and other parts of the world who refuse to forget who it is they serve?
As we move to our time of Communion, I want to encourage you to remember what Jesus’ has done on your behalf. It is because of Him that we now celebrate His great “Passover” deliverance for all who follow and obey God.
References & for Further Study
“Remind Me” – Ginny Owens – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO6JREQlV_M
Voice of the Martyrs (VOMC) – Monthly publication available - https://www.vomcanada.com/subscribe.htm (free within Canada)
Voice of the Martyrs (VOMC) – Weekly persecution and prayer alert available - https://www.vomcanada.com/about-emails.htm (free)
Sunday, June 6, 2021- “God Provides” (Exodus 15:22-16) - ONLINE Only
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
Daily Devotional – Tuesday, May 25, 2021
“One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, 2 and he began to teach them.
3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.” (Matthew 5:1-11, NLT)
When was the last time you really sat down and contemplated the “Beatitudes?” If we are serious about wanting the blessings of God, Jesus really does set a challenging list before us. Some of the items on the list make sense to us, like being merciful, pure in heart and working for peace and justice. Others leave us perplexed such as the benefits of being poor, mourning and humility. But then there are those that we might be tempted to skip over all together such as being persecuted for doing right and having our reputations wrecked for simply following him.
In prosperous countries, Christ-followers often fall into a pattern of wrong thinking about God’s blessings. We’re tempted to see lack due to poverty, grieving due to loss and any form of persecution as evidence of God’s withholding of blessing. This is because we have not recognized the true value of the blessings promised by God and have replaced them with worldly comforts. What does Jesus tell us are the blessings of God? To possess the Kingdom of Heaven, receive God’s comfort, inherit the whole earth, satisfy our thirst for justice, receive mercy, see God and be called children of God.
Nothing on that list promises a plump bank account, perfect health, acclaim or the like. In fact, much of the promised blessings are not for the here and now, but for the hereafter. As impatient children, we may find ourselves disappointed by our need to wait or by the fact that some of these blessings are to be awarded in heaven. But our disappointment only shows up our need to see the whole of life as one eternal journey. Our experience this side of the grave is but the mere ‘blink of an eye’ in God’s timeline.
Our disappointment may also reveal a shallowness in our faith. If we as Christ-followers require immediate perks and rewards for our obedience in order to remain loyal, we really ought to consider if we understand the kind of relationship God desires to have with us at all. He is not an employer trying to keep his work force happy and productive. He is our Father who understands our needs. He is the Creator who has a plan for His creation that He is continuing to unfold. He is our good God of love, in whom we can place our unwavering trust no matter what comes our way. Keep your eyes firmly on Him and your life devoted to serving Him, then rest assured, you will receive God’s blessing!
~ Pastor Jane
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, May 23, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Saying ‘NO!’ to God”
Text – Exodus 5-11, 12:31-42
Last week, we left Moses having reluctantly agreed to return to Egypt to serve as God’s appointed leader to bring the people out of Egypt. God had heard their cries and seen their misery. Moses was now prepared to take on the task for which he had been born and trained up for—in the palace of Pharaoh and in the fields as a shepherd. It was now time for God to enact his perfect will on behalf of his people. He was going to take their side against a brutal king determined to keep the Hebrews enslaved and He was going to lead them out of Egypt just as he promised so many years ago to their ancestors.
PHARAOH THE BULLY – Exodus 5:1-9
“After this presentation to Israel’s leaders, Moses and Aaron went and spoke to Pharaoh. They told him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go so they may hold a festival in my honor in the wilderness.’
2 ‘Is that so?’ retorted Pharaoh. ‘And who is the Lord? Why should I listen to him and let Israel go? I don’t know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go.’ 3 But Aaron and Moses persisted. ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us,’ they declared. ‘So let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness so we can offer sacrifices to the Lord our God. If we don’t, he will kill us with a plague or with the sword.’ 4 Pharaoh replied, ‘Moses and Aaron, why are you distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work! 5 Look, there are many of your people in the land, and you are stopping them from their work.’
6 That same day Pharaoh sent this order to the Egyptian slave drivers and the Israelite foremen: 7 ‘Do not supply any more straw for making bricks. Make the people get it themselves! 8 But still require them to make the same number of bricks as before. Don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy. That’s why they are crying out, “Let us go and offer sacrifices to our God.” 9 Load them down with more work. Make them sweat! That will teach them to listen to lies!’”
I want you to try and picture the scene that takes place in the Egyptian palace when Moses and Aaron show up and make the first of their demands to Pharaoh. But first, something you should be aware of, is that this is no mere king; in the eyes of the ancient Egyptians, the Pharaoh was the supreme representation of the gods to the people, a god himself, descended from Ra, god of the Sun. Now these…*shepherds* (you might want to say that with a hint of disgust given the attitude of Egyptians toward the Hebrews) are attempting to tell Pharaoh that there is another God, one capable of giving him orders, and this God is telling him to release his entire enslaved workforce at His bidding. Can’t you just hear Pharaoh’s retort, “’Scuse me? You can’t possibly be serious.”
How does he initially respond to Moses and Aaron? [who is the ‘Lord’ and why should I care?]
We don’t know which of the Pharaohs had this conversation with Moses and Aaron, but it doesn’t much matter. Having been raised to see himself as ‘god,’ he wasn’t much threatened by the notion that these Hebrews were claiming that another God had rights to their loyalty and worship. His next move shouldn’t surprise us at all.
What action does the Pharaoh then order against the slaves? [increase the workload – don’t provide straw, but demand the same production quota; his play was to beat them back into submission]
Pharaoh was the worshipped and unchallenged lord of the land. And when given a demand, he did what many do in his position; he attempted to bully the people further into submitting to his authority out of renewed fear. In essence, he simply responded, “You want to complain? I’ll give you something to complain about!” In his mind, the slaves obviously had too much free time on their hands. They have forgotten their place…time to fix that!
He gives no credence whatsoever to the idea that he ‘must’ do anything at the bidding of the Hebrews’ God. Of course, God knew all along that this would be Pharaoh’s response and had even warned Moses beforehand. It is now time to show Pharaoh just exactly who the Lord is. God’s plan is to prove his superiority over all the gods of Egypt, including Pharaoh himself.
TEN PLAGUES – DEITIES OF EGYPT
There is quite a bit of scholarship that connects each of the plagues to one or more of the many gods of ancient Egypt. Much scholarship, but lots of variance. To say definitively that this or that plague was directed at one particular god or goddess goes beyond the biblical text. It would definitely appear, however, that through the plagues God was intent on demonstrating His superiority over all the gods of Egypt…and their complete inability to protect the Egyptians from His punishments.
Exodus 7:14-25 – Plague #1 – All the water of the Nile turned to blood—including the water that had been collected into jars in people’s homes. The fish died and the river stank. It lasted for a week. The Egyptians had to dig pits along the riverbank to find water to drink. But because the magicians were able to also turn water to blood, Pharaoh’s heart was hard.
Exodus 8:1-15 – Plague #2 – Frogs, frogs, everywhere! The magicians were again able to have frogs come up out of the Nile as Moses and Aaron had, but the problem was so bad that Pharaoh pleaded with Moses to remove them. Frogs were in the palace, in their homes, in their beds, ovens, bread-making bowls…yuck! Imagine waking up covered in frogs…gross! So, the next day, the time chosen by Pharaoh, no living frog remained on the ground, only in the Nile. The frogs died en masse and had to be gathered into huge piles, which caused the land to reek. When Pharaoh saw that they had relief from the infestation, he reneged on his promise to let the people go and he further solidifies his stubborn resistance.
Exodus 8:16-19 – Plague #3 – Gnats/Lice cover everything after Aaron struck the ground. This time the magicians are not able to conjure the gnats as Moses and Aaron had. They tell the Pharaoh, “This is the hand of God!” But he refuses to listen and remains hard hearted.
Exodus 8:20-32 – Plague #4 – Thick swarms of flies cover all of Egypt…except the area inhabited by the Hebrews in Goshen. God has allowed everyone in Egypt to suffer as a result of Pharaoh’s stubbornness, but from this point forward He begins to make a distinction. The Hebrews will no longer be forced to endure any further plagues brought on by Pharaoh’s hard heart; they will experience, firsthand, the loving protection of their God. Pharaoh agrees to release the Hebrews, but again reneges when the plague ends and relief comes. His obstinance and determination against God grows.
Exodus 9:1-7 – Plague #5 – A deadly plague kills much of the Egyptian livestock—sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys, horses and camels. When Pharaoh sends someone to check out how the Hebrews have fared, he discovers that none of their animals have been affected. In his growing resentment, his heart remains unmoved.
Exodus 9:8-12 – Plague #6 – Painful boils inflict the Egyptians. The boils are so bad that the magicians cannot even fulfill their function as advisors to the king before Moses and Aaron. This is the first time in all of the plagues, where the Bible tells us that God himself now hardens Pharaoh’s heart.
Exodus 9:13-35 – Plague #7 – A devasting storm of rain, huge hailstones and continuous lightning destroys the crops of barley and flax (used by the Egyptians to make cloth) and kills people and animals that had not been brought into protected spaces:
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Get up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh. Tell him, “This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. 14 If you don’t, I will send more plagues on you and your officials and your people. Then you will know that there is no one like me in all the earth. 15 By now I could have lifted my hand and struck you and your people with a plague to wipe you off the face of the earth. 16 But I have spared you for a purpose—to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth. 17 But you still lord it over my people and refuse to let them go. 18 So tomorrow at this time I will send a hailstorm more devastating than any in all the history of Egypt. 19 Quick! Order your livestock and servants to come in from the fields to find shelter. Any person or animal left outside will die when the hail falls.”’
20 Some of Pharaoh’s officials were afraid because of what the Lord had said. They quickly brought their servants and livestock in from the fields. 21 But those who paid no attention to the word of the Lord left theirs out in the open.
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Lift your hand toward the sky so hail may fall on the people, the livestock, and all the plants throughout the land of Egypt.’ 23 So Moses lifted his staff toward the sky, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed toward the earth. The Lord sent a tremendous hailstorm against all the land of Egypt. 24 Never in all the history of Egypt had there been a storm like that, with such devastating hail and continuous lightning. 25 It left all of Egypt in ruins. The hail struck down everything in the open field—people, animals, and plants alike. Even the trees were destroyed. 26 The only place without hail was the region of Goshen, where the people of Israel lived.
27 Then Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron. ‘This time I have sinned,’ he confessed. ‘The Lord is the righteous one, and my people and I are wrong. 28 Please beg the Lord to end this terrifying thunder and hail. We’ve had enough. I will let you go; you don’t need to stay any longer.’
29 ‘All right,’ Moses replied. ‘As soon as I leave the city, I will lift my hands and pray to the Lord. Then the thunder and hail will stop, and you will know that the earth belongs to the Lord. 30 But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.’ 31 (All the flax and barley were ruined by the hail, because the barley had formed heads and the flax was budding. 32 But the wheat and the emmer wheat were spared, because they had not yet sprouted from the ground.) 33 So Moses left Pharaoh’s court and went out of the city. When he lifted his hands to the Lord, the thunder and hail stopped, and the downpour ceased. 34 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail, and thunder had stopped, he and his officials sinned again, and Pharaoh again became stubborn. 35 Because his heart was hard, Pharaoh refused to let the people leave, just as the Lord had predicted through Moses.”
Notice at this point in the story, that while Pharaoh’s heart remains hard, some of the other Egyptians had begun to acknowledge God’s existence and believe the words of Moses. They feared this plague, rightly so, and acted immediately in response to Moses’ warning.
In verse 15, God makes it clear to Pharaoh, through Moses, that it is only his patience and His long-term goal that has kept Him from simply reducing Egypt to nothing in one blow.
What is God’s goal in sending the plagues? Is it just to convince Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go? [that the Egyptians will recognize His power and that word will spread that He, the Creator of the universe, still holds sway over the nations of the world.]
I firmly believe that even now, if Pharaoh had repented, truly recognized the Lord as God and released the Hebrews as instructed, he and his whole country could have experienced the mercy and forgiveness of God Almighty. But again, the text tells us that Pharaoh hardened his heart and he stubbornly refused to let the people go…even after confessing his sin…even after declaring the Lord more righteous…even after agreeing once again to do what God had told him to.
Exodus 10:1-20 – Plague #8 – Locusts covered the land, destroying anything green; everything that managed to survive the hailstorm was decimated by the locusts. When God tells Moses to warn Pharaoh of this imminent threat, He also reveals another reason for the seemingly endless plagues, “I’ve also done it so you can tell your children and grandchildren about how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and about the signs I displayed among them—and so you will know that I am the Lord” (10:2). God is not just demonstrating His power for the enemy, but also for His people.
This time Pharaoh’s officials plead with him to relent before the promised plague arrives: can’t he see that the country lies in ruins? If this plague of locusts comes, the worst one in the history of Egypt, they will be beyond hope of recovering! Pharaoh calls Moses back appearing to be ready to negotiate, but ends up refusing yet again. The swarms come devouring everything, Pharaoh confesses, asks for Moses’ forgiveness and God’s deliverance (now there’s a switch!), promises to release the slaves…then again refuses once the locusts are blown into the Red Sea by a strong west wind sent by God.
Exodus 10:21-29 – Plague #9 – Darkness so intense you could feel it! For three days, the whole land of Egypt, aside from Goshen, was enveloped in darkness so dark that the populace could not see one another and were forced to remain stationary. Pharaoh again promises to let the slaves go…if they leave their flocks behind. When Moses refuses, Pharaoh decides he has had enough of this game. If Moses shows his face again in the palace, he’ll have him killed. Moses, equally frustrated with Pharaoh’s obstinacy, pronounces the final plague…
Exodus 11:1-10, 12:28-33 – Plague #10 – The angel of death kills all the firstborn in Egypt—human and livestock. In the palace, Pharaoh may have been spared the same level of suffering that some of his people had had to endure in the previous plagues, but this one hit home. God took his firstborn son, Egypt’s heir to the throne, the next in line to claim the title of son of Ra. Despite his earlier threat, he summons Moses and Aaron and tells them in no uncertain terms to, “Get out! And take everything with you.” He then proceeds to ask Moses for his blessing. He has seen the undeniable power of God at work; he recognizes that Moses is His servant; and even though his heart has been hardened first by himself, then by God, he wants a blessing—though we’re left uncertain what he was actually wanting. Finally, we get a sense that Pharaoh is at long last conceding the match to God; at this moment, he can’t be rid of these Hebrew slaves quick enough.
Those of us who are familiar with the story know it isn’t over yet, but that’s for next week.
PHARAOH’S HARD HEART
One question is still left to answer this morning. I have heard it asked, “How could God punish Pharaoh for his hard heart, when God was the one hardening it?” Good question. In my preparation for this morning, I came across a study of the Hebrew verb translated “became hard” (pronounced, khazaq). It is a stative verb not passive, which should be understood as a state of being rather than an action. When the Bible does not identify either God or Pharaoh doing the hardening, it is just a statement as to the current condition of Pharaoh’s hard heart. So, while the Bible does state that God actively does the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart after the plague of boils, locusts, darkness and in his refusal to change his mind under the threat of death for all the firstborn of Egypt, the other cases of Pharaoh’s heart being hard are attributed to his current state or to his own increasing belligerence toward God. Here’s the breakdown as provided by Tim Challies.
The Ten Plagues and Pharaoh’s Heart
1. Blood: Pharaoh’s heart “became hard” (7:22)
2. Frogs: Pharaoh “hardened his own heart” (8:15)
3. Gnats: Pharaoh’s heart “was hard” (8:19)
4. Flies: “Pharaoh hardened his own heart” (8:32)
5. Livestock die: Pharaoh’s heart “was hard” (9:7)
6. Boils: “The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (9:12)
7. Hail: Pharaoh “hardened his own heart” (9:34)
8. Locusts: God announces that he has “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (10:1,10:20)
9. Darkness: God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (10:27)
10. Death of the firstborn: God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (11:10)1
Notice that God only hardens Pharaoh’s heart after He has already provided him with ample opportunities; opportunities to repent, acknowledge God’s existence and power as demonstrated through the first five plagues and release the slaves as instructed. But each time, Pharaoh adamantly refuses. It would appear that God was exceedingly patient, but that Pharaoh’s persistent denial of God and refusal to obey…all the while disregarding the well-being of not only the slaves, but his own people…last longer than God’s patience. In his mind, Pharaoh saw this as a contest of wills he could win; but he was thoroughly mistaken.
Not that God was surprised. He knew beforehand what the outcome would be, yet still gave Pharaoh opportunities to change his mind. As He told Pharaoh, He could have wiped him and his whole country off of the face of the planet, but had chosen instead to create a set of incentives to encourage compliance. Many of the people of Egypt had been persuaded, “Now the Lord had caused the Egyptians to look favorably on the people of Israel. And Moses was considered a very great man in the land of Egypt, respected by Pharaoh’s officials and the Egyptian people alike” (Exodus 11:3)…but not the man, Pharaoh, who had been raised to view himself as a god; he remained hard towards God.
What can we learn from Pharaoh’s obstinacy and God’s completion of His promise?
· God is patient with us…even as He is forced to watch our own self-destruction; He will use whatever means necessary for us to make the best decisions, while at the same time not forcing us to make those decisions.
· God’s permissive will allows us to make our own choices, but the exercise of our own freewill in direct opposition to God never results in our victory. We will never win against God.
· God honours our freewill, even though he knows that when we set it against him it is to our own detriment. He may permit us to ‘have our own way,’ but he will never cede his perfect plan.
· “God will always graciously offer us chances to turn back (would you have given Pharaoh so many chances?!). But sometimes a person can cement themselves in a destructive path and reach a point of no return. God can and sometimes will allow our evil to destroy us.”2
· Like Pharaoh, we can simply refuse to believe all the evidence for God; we, too, can refuse to give up the notion of being in control, even when all things point to the contrary.
· Those who desire to obey God, even when they fail to do so well, can rest assured in God’s willingness to forgive when we repent of our own hard-heartedness.
References & for Further Study
1 The Bible Project – When Pharaoh’s Heart Grew Harder https://bibleproject.com/blog/pharaohs-heart-grew-harder
The Bible Project – Exodus 1-18 Overview -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jH_aojNJM3E
Zondervan Academic: What the Bible Tells Us About the Ten Plagues of Egypt -https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/what-the-bible-tells-us-about-the-10-plagues-of-egypt
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
Daily Devotional–Wednesday May19,2021
“The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. 42 ‘He saved others,’ they scoffed, ‘but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! 43 He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, “I am the Son of God”.’” (Matthew 27:41-43, NLT)
I was struck today by the complete contempt of the religious priests and teachers of the law toward Jesus as he hung on the cross. These men who prided themselves in understanding God so well, couldn’t recognize God as he hung on the cross. Jesus had performed miracles; he had taught with real authority; he had exercised control over nature and even death; he had been the physical embodiment of God himself. So why was it that these men, self-professed experts on ‘all things related to God,’ entirely missed him? Because they didn’t know God. They had devoted their lives to religious observance—doing the right things, saying the right things—and in their arrogance, they believed they possessed complete knowledge of God. They had the Law of Moses, the Psalms of David and the words of the prophets. But while they had the writings to guide them, they did not fully understand all that God had revealed through these same writings. They relied solely on their interpretation of the written word and did not allow God’s voice to direct their understanding.
It is a stark warning for us. We can spend literally hours praying and studying, yet miss God entirely. What would happen if God showed up in a way that we have decided he won’t and even cannot? Is it possible that we might find ourselves guilty of the same sin as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day—refusing to see God in our midst because he chooses a form that we have rejected? The religious leaders stood at the foot of the cross, looking up at the face of the God-man, Jesus…and mocked, scoffed, taunted. Religion without relationship can blind us to the workings of God in our very midst; relying on our own interpretations and understandings can deafen us to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. May what we ‘know’ never prevent us from recognizing God’s presence and plan!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional – Tuesday, May 18, 2021
“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. 7 My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. 8 O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:5-8, NLT)
I have been a self-confessed problem solver most of my life. In the past, when I have come across a difficulty, my natural ‘go to’ has been to consider all the variables and then set-out the most logical solution. But not all problems can or should be handled this way. The problem with being a problem-solver, is that my most natural tendency is to ‘trust in my own understanding.’ God has lead me on a journey of increased dependence on him; I wish I could say that I am now fully 100% trusting him in all things, but to be honest, the journey continues.
I am learning and have definitely grown in the right direction over the years. In the past, it was not until I was literally forced to face a challenge for which I could see no solutions, that I finally would focus my gaze heavenward. These days, I have learned to come to him on a regular basis—not waiting until I am in full-on panic mode, but in quiet expectation. I am learning to put the psalmist’s words to work, “Let all that I am wait quietly before God.”
All that I am. My mind. My perseverance. My creativity. My heart. My anxiety. My….all! When we are faced with an insurmountable wall, we are not directed to give up in despair nor are we told to rally our determination to push through. We are told to wait quietly…hope in God…trust in him at all times and pour out our hearts to him.
In the midst of your difficulties today, where is your focus? Stewing in self-pity? Determinedly pushing your own way through? Or pouring out your heart to the one who sees both the difficulties and the plan he is working through them? The need to wait quietly applies to all of us and to every situation we may face. God has promised to ‘direct our paths,’ but we won’t hear him until we stop…quiet ourselves…and listen!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional – Monday, May 17, 2021
“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.’” (Romans 10:9-13, NLT)
The events of the past week in Israel and Gaza remind me how lost we as humanity are without God. Without God, we as the human race cannot experience forgiveness. Without forgiveness, we will remain hell-bent on retaliating and having our revenge. As the current conflict between the Israelis and Hamas has once again escalated, I have heard many within the Church calling for increased prayers for the ‘peace of Jerusalem.’ I hear these calls and I am bothered, not by the call for prayer, but by an error in our theology which I believe has lead to the deification of the nation of Israel. This morning, I have been reluctant to tackle this topic but find myself being ‘pushed’ to speak up.
Our view of ‘Israel’ in the Church stems from our understanding of how the whole of Scripture and God’s overall plan should be understood. The Church, however, is not unified in this respect. The predominant evangelical religious interpretive system known as ‘dispensationalism’ began two hundred years ago with J.N. Darby who is also responsible for the creation of the Exclusive Brethren movement. In dispensationalism, the way to God is Jesus, but the Church and the Jewish nation remain separate. In this view, the history of the world should be understood as being divided into distinct ‘ages.’ The current ‘Church Age’ is just a parenthesis, dropped into the middle of God’s overall plan for his specially chosen people, Israel. The children of Israel, as direct descendants of Abraham, continue to hold a distinct place in God’s plan for the world in the ‘age’ to come, the ‘Millennial Kingdom.’
The older I get and the more I study, however, the further I find myself aligning with this interpretive system known as dispensationalism. Dispensationalism was in part introduced as a refutation of the Covenantal interpretive system, which dispensationalists accused of rejecting the Jewish nation at the time of the New Covenant in favour of the Church. This would be problematic if this were the case. But as I’ve studied, I have concluded that it is not a fair assessment of Covenantal theology. I am in agreement with covenant theologians, that God has not abandoned his promises to Israel, but has fulfilled his promises of the Old Covenant through the person and work of the Messiah; Jesus did not establish the Church as separate from Israel, but as a continuation and expansion of God’s chosen people. Paul explains that non-Jewish believers have been grafted into the existing family tree of God (Romans 11:17-24); the Jewish people are not rejected to make room for others, but will continue to flourish as part of an enlarged tree through faith in Jesus.
Why does this matter so much to me? Because I believe that some in the Church have deified current day Israel. And in this deification, we have lost sight of their humanity, in much the same way that some in the Christian Catholic tradition have deified Mary. We have bent over backwards to excuse abuses perpetrated by the nation of Israel against non-Jews. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-Semitic. I believe we are called on to love everyone and there is much evil-inspired hatred that the Israelis have had to learn to protect themselves against. However, the pedestal upon which many in the Christian community have placed ‘all things Jewish’ needs to seriously be dismantled. “What about the instruction to pray for Jerusalem?” found in the traditional song for pilgrims ascending into Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6), you might ask. I would humbly suggest that this call to prayer be extended to all those places around our globe in which the Christian family is found—all the Nations, including the nation of Israel.
~ Pastor Jane
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, May 16, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Leadership Development”
Text – Exodus 2:11-4
There is much about how God works in our lives that is simply beyond our understanding. However, that does not mean that we are without glimpses of his hand at work. There are some things we can know, and lessons we can glean from the stories of the people in the Bible. Take for instance our story today. God had a plan for the baby Moses—the timing seemed wrong, but God knew that it was perfect. Moses would be raised as a privileged son of the Egyptian princess, but would retain his connection with the Hebrew people—his people. By the age of forty, Moses is fully aware of the Hebrew’s situation as mistreated slaves and, as an unofficial ‘prince’ of the people, wants to take some action of their behalf. Unfortunately, his actions were his own and not yet directed by God. Over the course of the next forty years, we will see a dramatic change in Moses—from a self-confident member of the royal family to a humbled servant fully reliant on God’s wisdom and direction. We discover that it took until the age of eighty for Moses to finally be prepared to do the great work of God for which he was born!
But first, let’s go back forty years and see why taking matters into our hands is never a good idea…
TAKING MATTERS INTO HIS OWN HANDS – Exodus 2:11-22
“Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews. 12 After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand. 13 The next day, when Moses went out to visit his people again, he saw two Hebrew men fighting. “Why are you beating up your friend?” Moses said to the one who had started the fight. 14 The man replied, “Who appointed you to be our prince and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?” Then Moses was afraid, thinking, “Everyone knows what I did.” 15 And sure enough, Pharaoh heard what had happened, and he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in the land of Midian.
When Moses arrived in Midian, he sat down beside a well. 16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters who came as usual to draw water and fill the water troughs for their father’s flocks. 17 But some other shepherds came and chased them away. So Moses jumped up and rescued the girls from the shepherds. Then he drew water for their flocks. 18 When the girls returned to Reuel, their father, he asked, “Why are you back so soon today?” 1 9They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. And then he drew water for us and watered our flocks.”
20 “Then where is he?” their father asked. “Why did you leave him there? Invite him to come and eat with us.” 21 Moses accepted the invitation, and he settled there with him. In time, Reuel gave Moses his daughter Zipporah to be his wife. 22 Later she gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom,[a] for he explained, “I have been a foreigner in a foreign land.”
Moses had left the palace to visit the slaves at work. He had seen an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave and had reacted by killing the man and then trying to cover up the crime. But word spread quickly and he was forced to run for his life. His attempt to stand up for the Hebrews had entirely backfired. He ends up settling in the land of Midian—away from everything he had ever know, more Egyptian than Hebrew, a foreigner. Looking in on Moses’ story, we might be tempted to think that he has totally blown any chance he had to help his people. He is a wanted man and now must live the rest of his days banished.
But not so. In forty years time, God will show up and direct Moses to return to Egypt. We could view the forty years that Moses spends in Midian as banishment…or as a training ground. God had plans to use Moses as a leader, but he needed to undergo a life transformation before he would be ready to do so.
Moses, the prince of Egypt, must learn the lessons of a shepherd—patience, self-control and humility—before he will be ready to lead the vast nation of the Hebrews out of Egypt. God knows that the freed slaves will at times bear an incredible resemblance to an obstinate flock of sheep and Moses will be called upon to use all the skills he gains in his forty years of tending his father-in-laws flocks.
Have you ever noticed times when previous life experiences have prepared you for future life events?
Time must have felt like it was moving very slowly for Moses during those forty years in the Midianite wilderness. In the waiting, we sometimes feel like God is moving too slowly, if he’s taking any action at all. But once things have aligned themselves, God often moves swiftly, forcing us to try and catch up. Such was the case with Moses…
GOD CALLS MOSES – Exodus 3:1-10
“One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. 3 “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”
4 When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” Moses replied, “Here I am!” 5 The Lord warned Moses, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. 6 I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.
7 Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. 9 Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. 10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”
God determines that the time is right. The Hebrews are desperate to escape Egypt and his chosen leader has been readied. But first God must get Moses’ attention. What does God do? [shows up as a burning bush]
I can’t help but wonder if God is taking this opportunity to introduce himself to Moses. How well does Moses actually know God at this point in his life? God shows up in a way that Moses can’t ignore. However, Moses’ curiosity turns to instant dread when God identifies himself, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Oh, and by the way, take your sandals off; you’re standing on holy ground.” God isn’t just back in Egypt with the enslaved Israelites, he’s also in this place where Moses has lived in banishment for the past forty years. And he has a job for Moses to do.
God has not been deaf to the cries of his people; he is aware of the suffering they have experienced at the hands of the Egyptians. And Moses, who had been so keen to come to their aid forty years earlier, is God's chosen servant to lead them into freedom and the land he promised their fathers so many years ago.
Forty years earlier, the self-confident ‘prince’ of Egypt might have been quick to accept the challenge. But Moses, who has been undergoing a transformation of his leadership style and character, isn’t overly eager for this opportunity at the age of eighty. He’s going to need some convincing.
MOSES NEEDS CONVINCING – Exodus 3:11-15, 4:1-17
“But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”
13 But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” 14 God replied to Moses, “I am who i am.[f] Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you…
But Moses protested again, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’?” 2 What is that in your hand?” the Lord asked Moses. “A shepherd’s staff,” Moses replied. 3 “Throw it down on the ground,” the Lord told him. So Moses threw down the staff, and it turned into a snake! Moses jumped back. 4 Then the Lord told him, “Reach out and grab its tail.” So Moses reached out and grabbed it, and it turned back into a shepherd’s staff in his hand. 5 “Perform this sign,” the Lord told him. “Then they will believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—really has appeared to you.”
6 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out again, his hand was white as snow with a severe skin disease. 7 “Now put your hand back into your cloak,” the Lord said. So Moses put his hand back in, and when he took it out again, it was as healthy as the rest of his body. 8 The Lord said to Moses, “If they do not believe you and are not convinced by the first miraculous sign, they will be convinced by the second sign. 9 And if they don’t believe you or listen to you even after these two signs, then take some water from the Nile River and pour it out on the dry ground. When you do, the water from the Nile will turn to blood on the ground.”
10 But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” 11 Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”
13 But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” 14 Then the Lord became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. 15 Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do. 16 Aaron will be your spokesman to the people. He will be your mouthpiece, and you will stand in the place of God for him, telling him what to say. 17 And take your shepherd’s staff with you, and use it to perform the miraculous signs I have shown you.”
How much evidence does one man need? It is abundantly clear, that Moses did not want this assignment! Five times he protests and even pleads with God to choose someone else…anyone else! After Moses’ first objection, God makes a promise to bring him and all the Israelites back to Mount Sinai where they will worship God.
But that isn’t enough for Moses; he protests again. “Who will I say sent me?” What is Gods’ answer? [“I AM” has sent you; the God of your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob]
Again, Moses protests, “What if they refuse to believe that you sent me?” What miracles does God demonstrate and tell Moses to use? [staff turns into a snake and then back again; hand is made leprous then healthy; water from the Nile poured on the ground will turn to blood]
God has shown himself capable, but Moses doubts God’s ability to work through him. “I can’t speak…I’m no good at putting the words together!” What does God remind Moses of? [it is God who gives the ability to speak, to hear, to see] What promises does God make to Moses? [“I will be with you and I will give you the words to speak”]
But Moses is still desperate not to be chosen for this task and pleads with God to send someone else…anyone but him! And it’s at this point that we see another side of God. Moses’ unwillingness to acknowledge that God is sufficient to help him with this task causes God to show an entirely different emotion. How does he now respond to Moses’ refusal? [he gets angry; God relents and allows Moses a partner, but because God knows Aaron’s heart he refuses to give him equal responsibility and authority with Moses]
We find God going from calmly reassuring to perturbed…Moses is testing his patience! But rather than letting him off the hook, God offers to supply Moses with a helper—his brother Aaron. This brings a measure of relief to Moses and he finally relents, but for those of us who know the story, I can’t help but wonder if there may have come a time when Moses regretted Aaron’s help—like when he made the golden calf or when he and Miriam became jealous of Moses’ position. Definitely a reminder for all of us to be careful what we wish for!
What can we take from this biblical narrative from the life of Moses?
· God is not blind to our struggles, just as he was not blind to the Israelites’ enslavement, but often his timing is beyond our understanding – One thing we can know for certain is that he sees, he hears and he’s working all things together to fulfill his plans
· Our own solutions to problems often fall short and/or fail miserably – Moses was initially eager to help his people and he even killed for them; but his ill-planned intervention resulted in his needing to run for his life
· God is capable of redeeming our mistakes – Moses was forced to flee Egypt and landed in Midian where he would complete his training for his future position of leadership
· View your life circumstances as God’s training arena – In Pharaoh’s palace, Moses learned much about how to lead; but it was in the lands of Midian as a shepherd that Moses learned the lessons of patience, self-control and humility
· Rely on God not your own abilities – Moses went from being overly confident in his own ability to solve problems to recognizing his complete inability…and doubting that he was fit for the job at all. God had to convince him that, while he was incapable on his own, with God’s help anything was possible.
· God often directs us to complete tasks that go beyond our own limitations so that we recognize who should get the credit…so that he receives the glory – God was choosing to work through Moses, a man who had settled into the life of a shepherd and told him to lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt—an entirely impossible task without the help of God; but because it was impossible for Moses, he was God’s perfect pick—the Hebrews would have to acknowledge that it was God who had done the impossible
· When God calls us to do a task, he will supply what we need – Moses knew he didn’t have the skills or confidence to do the job God wanted to accomplish through him and it made him reluctant; God promised, however, to provide Moses with the ability to do miracles and would give him the words to speak. Moses’ lack was not an issue for God…and could even be viewed as an asset. An entirely confident and competent person may not have relied on God the way that Moses did
· Be careful about trying to set the parameters within which you will serve God – Moses wanted another human companion to help him in the task God was giving to him, but what he didn’t know was that Aaron would end up causing him grief on a sizable scale more than once during the next forty years. How might things have turned out differently, if Moses had fully trusted God right from the beginning?
Sunday, May 23, 2021- “Saying ‘NO!’ to God” (Exodus 5-11,12:31-42,14) - ONLINE Only
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
Daily Devotional–Thursday, May 13, 2021
“This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 ‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.’ 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
5 Then the word of the LORD came to me. 6 He said, ‘Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?’ declares the LORD. ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. 7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. 9 And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.’” (Jeremiah 18:1-10, NLT)
God told Jeremiah to visit the potter’s house to receive a message for the people. What was the message? “People are clay in the hands of God, the Master Potter.” It is as much a message for you and I as it was for Israel. Here’s something for you to try; replace the word “Israel” with the word “Church” and read it again. Or if you want to make it more personal replace “Israel” and “nation or kingdom” with your name. Making this scripture about our context doesn’t do any injustice to God’s message…this portion of the Bible really is as much for us as it was for the Israelites.
God has plans and he has made provisional promises; but he isn’t limited like the ancient kings of the Medes/Persians to making decrees that even he himself cannot modify. We are like clay in his hands and he will mold us as he sees fit. If we resist the pressure of his hands, he is not incapable of changing his initial design for us. When we actively choose to respond to him in submission and obedience, he can also change his plan in response to our free will.
It is difficult for us as finite beings to understand how God’s permissive will interacts with our own freedom to choose, but it is evident through the prophet Jeremiah, that it is so. He isn’t interested in making irrevocable ultimatums—he works and shapes us in response to our own freewill. He isn’t interested in blind compliance; he wants a relationship. He honours the gift he gave us, the freedom to choose or reject him, and responds to us much as a potter responds to the quality of the clay. Of what kind of ‘quality’ will you choose to be in God’s hands?
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional – Tuesday, May 11, 2021
“Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b, NLT)
Esther was a reluctant queen faced with an impossible choice. The king had allowed himself to be flattered into writing an irrevocable decree that would eliminate one whole people group from his domain; being a bit of a drunk and given to spontaneous and even irrational decisions, he did not realize that this would include his new queen, Esther. Esther is now faced with the choice of either staying silent and watching the members of her immediate and extended family, the Jews, slaughtered or speak up and risk the king’s displeasure and the loss of her own life. Those of us familiar with Esther’s story know that she bravely resigns herself with the words, “If I perish, I perish.”
Very few of us will ever find ourselves rubbing shoulders with royalty on a regular basis, but we may very well find ourselves in difficult positions with our backs against the wall. Some of the challenges we face in our lives are self-inflicted consequences of sin, but not all. Like Esther, God may lead us to a particular place at a specific time to accomplish an explicit goal. It’s at those times that we need courage beyond our own; we need to trust God—if he has in fact brought us to this moment, he will work out his purposes.
We would do well to follow Esther’s example. After committing herself, she sets aside time to pray and fast. God has promised to help us accomplish the tasks he sets before us, so it is best that we rely on his help and not attempt to overcome any difficulty in our own strength. Esther was able to save her people because God granted her courage and favour with the king. God had indeed made Esther queen through a rather strange set of circumstances for the purpose of saving her people. What might God be wanting to accomplish through the difficult situations he allows into our lives, as we respond in obedience and reliance on him?
~ Pastor Jane
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!