Hope Chapel Blog
Learning and living the Way of Jesus!
Daily Devotional – Monday, June 14, 2021
“And the day will come when I will cause the ancient glory of Israel to revive, and then, Ezekiel, your words will be respected. Then they will know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 29:21, NLT)
In the Christian Church, we often have the notion that prophets were the religious superstars of their day. Nothing could be further from the truth. To be chosen by God to be one of His prophets was, more often than not, an entirely thankless job. The job required that the men and women God chose to speak through be willing to play the part of the fool for Him. Hosea was told to marry Gomer, even though she would be repeatedly unfaithful to him as his wife (Hosea). Isaiah was instructed to walk around naked for three years (Isaiah 20:2-4). Jeremiah bought a new linen belt that he wore for a short time, before God told him to go bury it, only to retrieve it again once fully rotten (Jeremiah 13). Ezekiel delivered messages of warning and doom to great nations for many years before God saw fit to enact the warnings.
Often, God told the prophets to do some odd and even outrageous things or to deliver messages that would not come to pass until after many years and sometimes even after the prophet’s death. When a prophet delivered a message, it was often met with curiosity at best or outright ridicule; recipients of their messages often responded with a cynically raised eyebrow of disbelief, rather than serious reflection. As those who believe in God, today, we shouldn’t expect much better. Our talk of the existence of an all-powerful God who is eternally existent makes no sense to some and is treated hostilely by others. God’s plan of forgiveness through His Son is ridiculed by many. The idea that there is a place called ‘heaven?’…nothing more than a fairy tale. The response of others can test our resolve to act the fool for God, but resolve ourselves we must.
God’s encouragement to Ezekiel serves as an encouragement for us, too, to stay true to the job God has given His children and to boldly share the message that He’s given us. Even though we may find ourselves the butt of jokes presently, there will come a day when our words will be respected. Everyone, eventually, will come to the place of “knowing that God is the Lord.” Better to risk being accused of being a fool by people, than accused of neglecting our God-given job by our heavenly Father. There’s no shame in playing the fool, when you do so for God!
~ Pastor Jane
#hopechapel #collingwoodchurch #ezekiel13 #unashamed
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, June 13, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Don’t Presume”
Text – Exodus 17:1-6, Numbers 20:1-13, Deuteronomy 34:1-4
Call to Worship – Lamentations 3:17-26 – “His Mercies Are New Every Morning!”
We make presumptions daily without even realizing it. I sit down on a chair because I presume it will hold me up. I flip the switch, presuming that it will turn on the light. I don’t give it a second thought except on the rare occasion when I discover I have a burnt-out bulb. Some presumptions are normal and good.
Can you imagine how strange it would be for a person to mistrust a chair every time they sat down for fear it was going to collapse? Or imagine the person who breathes a sigh of relief every time the light comes on in response to having flipped the switch? For the most part, these are realistic and healthy presumptions. We shouldn’t go through life paranoid!
Unfortunately, we also make presumptions that we have no business making. We may not be quick to express them or even recognize them, but they come out nonetheless. Have you ever said or thought any of the following?
· ‘I’ve experienced this before. I know exactly what to do.’
· ‘Meh, close enough.’
· ‘It’s not my fault. I was having a bad day.’
· ‘Give me a break! I said I was sorry.’
· ‘My life sucks. Why does God hate me so much?’
Each of these sentiments is indicative of the fact that you and I may hold to some common underlying and problematic presumptions.
And today we are going to find hints of each in Moses’ life as well…now at the ripe old age of 118 years. It appears that no matter how old we get, or how long we have lived as a faithful follower of God, we are never immune from making false presumptions that can leave us vulnerable. But first, we must go back to where we left the Israelites last week, with God providing for the people in the middle of the wilderness, and Moses still just a mere 80 years of age.
BACKSTORY – WATER FROM A ROCK
Exodus 17:1-6 - “At the Lord’s command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Sin and moved from place to place. Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink. 2 So once more the people complained against Moses. “Give us water to drink!” they demanded. “Quiet!” Moses replied. “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the Lord?”
3 But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?” 4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!”
5 The Lord said to Moses, “Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you. 6 I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.” So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on.”
This miracle happened within the first two months of the Israelites having escaped Egypt. The people are desperate for water…again. The people accuse Moses of bringing the Israelites into the desert only to kill them, their children and their livestock with thirst…again. Tensions are running so high, Moses fears for his life. God directs him to strike the rock of Mount Sinai and water comes gushing out for the people and their animals. Chaos averted. But this is not the first or last time that the people will experience a shortage of water during their time in the desert.
Fast forward 38 years and we come across an almost identical situation, but with a twist.
SAME OLD PROBLEM…NEW SOLUTION
Numbers 20:2-8 – “2 There was no water for the people to drink at that place, so they rebelled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The people blamed Moses and said, ‘If only we had died in the Lord’s presence with our brothers! 4 Why have you brought the congregation of the Lord’s people into this wilderness to die, along with all our livestock? 5 Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place? This land has no grain, no figs, no grapes, no pomegranates, and no water to drink!’
6 Moses and Aaron turned away from the people and went to the entrance of the Tabernacle, where they fell face down on the ground. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to them, 7 and the Lord said to Moses, 8 ‘You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water. You will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the whole community and their livestock.’”
Thirty-eight years later and nothing has changed. The people again find themselves desperate for water and once again Moses finds himself in the line of fire. Moses is blamed once more for having brought them out of Egypt into the desert to die—the same old tired accusation since day one. Thirty-eight years have done nothing to change these hard headed and hardhearted people. Moses goes before God and he is given a new set of directions for this same problem he faced nearly four decades earlier. Now, rather than hitting the rock as he had done so many years ago, God instructs him to simply speak to the rock with his staff in hand.
Same old problem…new solution. Simple enough. But this is exactly where things go wrong for Moses in a single, unguarded, moment.
AN UNGUARDED MOMENT
Numbers 20:1, 9-13 - “In the first month of the year, the whole community of Israel arrived in the wilderness of Zin and camped at Kadesh. While they were there, Miriam died and was buried…
So Moses did as he was told. He took the staff from the place where it was kept before the Lord. 10 Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. ‘Listen, you rebels!’ he shouted. ‘Must we bring you water from this rock?’ 11 Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill.
12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!’ 13 This place was known as the waters of Meribah (which means “arguing”) because there the people of Israel argued with the Lord, and there he demonstrated his holiness among them.”
Moses has just lost his sister, Miriam, and would have been grieving her loss. Just once, couldn’t these people have held their tongues…recognized the pain that Moses was in…allowed him to grieve the loss of sister in peace? Nope!
Moses goes before God, receives his instructions and appears to be intent on obeying God as he has so many times before. But there’s a ‘hiccup’ in Moses’ long history of unwavering obedience to God, a hint of a presumption that Moses held to.
PRESUMPTION #1 – “GOD IS PREDICTABLE” – Moses had been here before and in the almost exact same situation. Surely, when God told him to speak to the rock and take the staff, the staff was to be used as he had used it before…to strike the rock. But when he does, God accuses Moses and Aaron of not trusting Him to bring deliverance. It didn’t matter how God had worked in the past; God had intended to reveal Himself in a new way.
As much as we might like to think we understand God and how He works, we cannot predict how God will choose to act at any given time. He must be treated as the limitless Sovereign that He is…always. We must avoid putting God in a box, expecting Him to always answer in the same predictable way. In our sinfulness we try to ‘figure God out,’ to make Him understandable to our finite human experience, but in so doing we reduce the person of God and what we believe about Him. When we put God in a box, we limit the ways that we will accept His help and in the way we will serve Him…to our own detriment!
PRESUMPTION #2 – “GOOD ENOUGH IS GOOD ENOUGH” – Notice, too, what Moses says to the people, “Must we bring water from this rock?” God accuses Moses of not honouring Him before the people. The way I read this is that Moses misrepresented God. Yes, the people were going to receive water through the instructions provided to Moses, but it was God who was going to perform the miracle…through His servant. Even if Moses hadn’t hit the rock, had simply spoken to it and water come pouring out, he would still have been guilty of not giving credit where credit was due, of not honouring God and demonstrating His holiness. God expected full obedience and humility from Moses; but, Moses only ‘mostly’ obeyed God and it cost him.
PRESUMPTION #3 – “A ‘BAD’ DAY EXCUSES BAD BEHAVIOUR” - Most of us would be tempted to excuse Moses. Afterall, his sister had just died, he’s grieving. Give the guy a break. But that’s the world’s thinking, not God’s. Problem is, we’ve all been there…and none of us wants to be held accountable for the things we do in our ‘knee jerk’ reactionary moments.
When I was preparing my notes, I couldn’t help but think back to a ‘knee jerk’ reaction of my own from Bible college days. I awoke in the middle of the night to an incredible pain in my lower back and side. My dorm roommate drove me to the hospital where I spent the next few hours in pain as the medical staff attempted to ascertain the source. It became clear that what I was suffering from was a kidney stone…which put me in hospital for a week and regularly sedated on pain killers.
Prior to my admission, however, I was repeatedly asked if I knew why I was there. Apparently, there was some concern over my ability to recollect events during this painful episode under minimal pain medication. At one point, under non-stop pain, I became overly frustrated with this question. About the sixth time I was asked, ‘Do you know why you’re here?’ I responded in a loud and clear voice, “I’m here to piss out a rock.” I was not asked the question again.
But my poor roommate. She was utterly shocked by what she had just heard. I didn’t talk that way normally, but it’s amazing what the combination of pain, exhaustion and frustration will bring out in even a normally well-spoken Bible college student. All excuses aside, it was not a good response, even if it brought about the desired results. My poor choice of words, despite providing a somewhat relatable story today, should not be excused just because I was having a bad day.
PRESUMPTION #4 – “SAYING ‘SORRY’ REMOVES CONSEQUENCES” – I am certain that Moses was immediately repentant when God pointed out his error, quick to confess his sin and humbled by God’s rebuke. That attitude of repentance did not, however, remove God’s judgment, “You will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” We don’t read in Scripture that Moses tried to change God’s mind, though some of us might be quick to argue Moses’ case: “Give him a break, God. He said he was sorry. He won’t do it again.” Some of us are working from a false presumption.
Let me ask a question. Why do we say ‘sorry?’ We may be genuinely apologetic; we’re sorry we got caught; or to get out of consequences. The presumption that consequences can be reversed, for wrong choices made, simply because we regret the consequences, is wrong. I am convinced that God forgave Moses, yet at the same time He didn’t change His decision to bar Moses from entering the promised land. The same is true for us. God will forgive us when we repent, but there are often consequences that we must live with for our wrong choices—needed restitution, broken relationships and damaged reputations.
PRESUMPTION #5 – “CONSEQUENCES MEAN GOD DOESN’T LOVE ME” – Nothing could be further from the truth! God uses consequences for wrong doing to ‘discipline’ us as our loving heavenly Father. God forgives us and He extends His grace and mercy to us, but He has no interest in having His children develop into spoiled and entitled brats. Even though Moses had committed an act God deemed worthy of barring him from the promised land, Moses continued to hold a special place in God’s affections. Before he dies, God gives him one final gift.
GOD’S GIFT TO MOSES
Deuteronomy 34:1-4 - “Then Moses went up to Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab and climbed Pisgah Peak, which is across from Jericho. And the Lord showed him the whole land, from Gilead as far as Dan; 2 all the land of Naphtali; the land of Ephraim and Manasseh; all the land of Judah, extending to the Mediterranean Sea; 3 the Negev; the Jordan Valley with Jericho—the city of palms—as far as Zoar. 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, “I will give it to your descendants.” I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.’”
Moses is given an opportunity to see the promised land before he dies in the wilderness. Moses is the only Israelite who is refused entry into Canaan, who God permits to still see it with his own eyes (aside from the ten spies who have toured the land for forty days and then died of plague when they discouraged the people from obeying God). This was a final gift from God to His friend, Moses.
So why not just let Moses enter and retire? Because to do so would have been to deny the severity of what Moses had done. Rebellion against God had cost the original Israelites who had been brought out of Egypt their chance to enter into the land—everyone twenty years and older had died in the wilderness. Joshua and Caleb—the two spies who encouraged the people to enter God’s promised land four decades earlier—were the only ones left of the original adults who were permitted to enter into Canaan.
What Moses and Aaron had done at Kadesh may not have appeared like such a big deal, but God had expected more of the two men chosen to represent Him to the people. He couldn’t let their disobedience simply slide. Jesus pointed out this principle when he taught that, “But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” (Luke 12:48). Moses had been entrusted with much, had enjoyed a privileged position in his relationship with God, but when it came time to prove his loyalty once again, he had failed.
God forgave Moses, but the consequence remained. He had lead the Israelites for forty years and like all of them, apart from Joshua and Caleb, he would die in the wilderness as one of them.
So what can we learn about the wrong presumptions we make from this brief moment in the life of Moses?
· Even faithful Christians, those who are considered spiritually mature, can be vulnerable to making mistakes. No one is immune.
· It is important that we consistently represent God well to others. We must give Him credit for the things He does. We must remember who is in charge and responsible to give the orders that we are called to obey.
· We have to resist the urge to define the parameters within which God can and will work. We must be willing to have Him surprise us…to reveal Himself in new ways.
· Partial obedience still contains within it the act of disobedience. When God gives us a task, we need to obey it fully.
· Always be on the defensive against ‘knee jerk’ reactions. One of the Holy Spirit’s gifts to us is self-control…a gift needed every day, but especially when our natural defenses are down.
· God will 100% forgive us when we ask Him to, but that doesn’t mean that He eliminates the consequences that result from our wrong choices. And because of His great love for us, He will help us manage the consequences when we seek His help.
· Always be willing to check your presumptions. Do they have a basis in reality or wishful thinking or any other source? Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you with His knowledge and wisdom each and every day.
References & for Further Study
Sunday, June 20, 2021- “Accept Help” (Exodus 18) – In-person and Online – Father’s Day
Weekly lessons are now being made available on Youtube – “Pastor’s Study” - Go to our website: hopechapelcollingwood.ca and click on the Youtube icon or click on the link below https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrF8GWFnLjTmRyXjYnq1Ytw
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
Daily Devotional–Thursday, June 10, 2021
“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:13, NLT)
The Bible highlights the need for us to pray…often. But what should be the focus of our prayers? Our prayers aren’t to be for show, to impress others (Matthew 6:5). They aren’t to be filled with repetitive words (Matthew 6:7). They aren’t just to be for our own gratification (James 4:3). There are many things to pray for—for daily bread (Matthew 6:11), against temptation (Matthew 6:13), for other believers (Ephesians 6:18) and even for those who mistreat us (Matthew 5:44). But I couldn’t help noticing again today, from Jesus’ perspective, what the best thing we can pray for is. It is something we are to shamelessly pursue…something that the Father will not refuse us—His presence through the Holy Spirit.
God tells us through Jeremiah, that if we seek Him with all our heart, He will be found by us (Jeremiah 29:13). Matthew recorded Jesus’ teaching that we are to ‘seek first God’s Kingdom’ then the other things of earthly concern—like food, shelter and clothing—will be provided as well (Matthew 6:33). Luke expands on Jesus’ instruction regarding prayer by telling us that the ‘seek and you will find’ has to do with God’s provision of the Holy Spirit. God knows what is needed to sustain our physical beings, but He wants us to remove our focus from the temporal to the eternal, from the physical to the spiritual, from the created to the Creator.
What would happen if our prayers primarily revolved around wanting more of God—not more of what He can provide, but more of Him? I would dare say that most of our lives would be drastically changed…for the better. Do we love God well enough to want more of Him? According to Jesus, it should be the thing that we look for most. And God, for His part, will not disappoint!
~ Pastor Jane
#hopechapel #devotional #Luke11 #collingwoodchurch #prayer #HolySpirit
Daily Devotional–Wednesday, June 9, 2021
“The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.” (Luke 8:14, NLT)
I remember the long hard hours of pulling weeds from our huge vegetable garden on the farm…at least, as a kid, it seemed huge! Planting the seeds, raking and hoeing the dirt was one thing, but the pulling of the weeds was a tedious, never ending job. We all knew, however, that if the garden didn’t have the weeds removed, it would soon turn wild, with the weeds taking over. And if that happened, you could say good-bye to all the yummy vegetables, pickles and other preserves that would result from all our hard labour of regularly tending to the weeds.
This analogy of how weeds take over a vegetable garden is no less true for the human heart. God wants to grow His fruit in us, but it requires constant attention being given to the pulling of the ‘weeds.’ Weeds of the heart are any attitudes or motivations that work against the growth of God’s love and other fruit in our lives. The Holy Spirit will cause us to grow his love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control; however, these cannot grow when we allow our lives to be overrun with the weeds of selfishness, unforgiveness, greed, anxiety, impatience and pride (to list but a few of the possible ‘weeds’).
Unfortunately, there are many ‘immature’ people who know of Christ, speak of His Lordship, but who demonstrate by the weeds in their lives, that their words are not an accurate reflection of their actual beliefs and desires. We would all do well to allow the Master Gardener to point out the weeds that threaten the growth of His goodness in our lives and actively participate in the process of internal weeding, each and everyday.
~ Pastor Jane
#hopechapel #devotional #church #collingwoodchurch #Luke8
Daily Devotional – Tuesday, June 8, 2021
“The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation.” (Luke 8:13, NLT)
I remember the summer I spent at Camp Seton in Manitoba quite fondly. The camp was run by Camp Arnes for the slightly more adventurous and was located on leased crown land. We were entirely ‘off-grid’…no electricity, no running water and no contact with the outside world. We were required to wash our clothes with a scrub board, take showers using our improvised water barrel (which you had to fill by hand and light a fire underneath if you wanted your shower to be warm), sleep in chuck wagons that had been outfitted with bunkbeds and cook all your meals over a campfire. I loved it…despite the coyotes, poison ivy and soreness from all-day trail rides!
During that summer I learned many things as a camp counselor…about God, about people and about nature. For instance, while attempting to demonstrate the need for teamwork to collect wood for our cooking fire with minimal hardware, I made an interesting and very helpful discovery. In the area of the camp, we had a lot of standing deadwood poplar trees, but no axe to cut them down. Turns out you don’t need an axe. Smaller poplars are easily pushed over by hand, dragged to the desired area and then cut apart into sections using a handsaw. How is it that a tree that has grown to twenty feet in height is so easily pushed over? Minimal roots. The particular stand of poplars we had access to was dense with younger trees having grown up quickly, but whose root system remained shallow. In dry seasons, which this particular area of Manitoba experiences quite often, the trees easily die. Voila! Firewood.
When I read Jesus’ explanation of the seed that is thrown on rocky soil, grows up quickly, but ultimately dies for lack of a good root system, I can’t help but think of those poplar trees and of our own spiritual growth. During that same summer, I had a camper who came to camp intent on playing the part of the rebel. Black make-up, hair fanned out and sprayed in place in the punk style of the day and fully determined to take on anyone who gave her even a sideways look. She was fully prepared for a fight, but she was totally unarmed against the love that she experienced. Over the course of the week, I saw her let down her guard and in a vulnerable moment she shared how her brother, whom she had been very close to, had committed suicide. In our devotional times I was able to share about God and I could see her becoming open to His truth. I wish she could have stayed longer, given the Holy Spirit more time to work on her heart, because of what happened on the day that parents arrived to pick up their children.
The black make-up and punk style had disappeared after the first day of camp; she had found acceptance even when attempting to push others away and hadn’t felt the need to put on the rebellious front. That all changed the morning she was to go home. In preparation for seeing her mother, she put her shell back on. She had experienced acceptance and God’s love at the camp and had allowed His Holy Spirit to soften her heart, but her ‘spiritual roots’ hadn’t had enough time to grow deep. We had gotten to see another side of her, but as soon as our time was up, she went right back into her old world—her heart hardened against the seed of truth that had begun to grow. The temptation to revert proved to be too enticing. The hurt of her heart still too raw.
God’s love is available to all; He wants a relationship with each one of us. But my experience reminds me, that while we can receive this truth gladly, if we do not allow that love to fill us and cause us to grow deep roots, we may find ourselves unanchored in the face of the hurts of life, unable to resist the temptation to let go of the love we have experienced. A shallow understanding of God’s love may leave us susceptible to being pushed over, because we’ve not learned to allow it to sustain us during difficult times. We all need to allow the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts, growing ever more deeply in our confidence of and obedience to our loving, heavenly Father.
~ Pastor Jane
#hopechapel #devotional #growdeep #Luke8 #collingwoodchurch
Daily Devotional – Monday, June 7, 2021
“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47, NLT)
How do you relate to Jesus? Luke recounts a story in his gospel of an invitation Jesus received to dinner. His host was a Pharisee, who in all likelihood viewed Jesus as a curiosity. Jesus was accumulating quite an audience, had performed many miracles and was gaining a name and reputation for himself; yes, he was a controversial figure, but he was also popular. Time to have this growing celebrity over for dinner and see if there is anything to His growing fame. A local woman, who also had a reputation, but of another sort, is drawn to join this dinner party. But she doesn’t come out of curiosity, she comes with the express intent of demonstrating her devotion. The Pharisee’s and the woman’s response to Jesus provide a stark contrast.
The Pharisee, who probably viewed himself as an equal or better than this new hot-shot preacher, makes no attempts to treat Jesus as an honoured guest. There’s no water to wash his feet, no traditional kiss of welcome, no special treatment whatsoever by the host to his guest. On the other hand, this ‘sinful’ woman comes prepared to lavish her devotion on Him as she weeps for her sins, wipes her tears from His feet with her hair, repeatedly kisses His feet and anoints them with expensive perfume. The Pharisee had invited Jesus for dinner, expecting Jesus to convince him that there was something to all the fuss being made about this Nazarene. The woman had come convinced already of who He was.
What of you and me? Who do we most resemble in our relationship with Jesus? The Pharisee or the woman? Have we merely invited Jesus to dinner, neglecting our role as host, sitting back in expectation that He should somehow wow us and convince us of His Lordship? Or like the woman, do we approach Jesus already acknowledging His Lordship and recognizing our own unworthiness of being a part of His Kingdom? Are we simply curious wanting Jesus to ‘show up’ or are we convinced, content to be in His presence? Do we respond with contempt when He gives us glimpses into His Kingdom or with tear-filled gratitude?
Only one of the two left that dinner filled with the love of God…and it wasn’t the Pharisee!
~ Pastor Jane
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, June 6, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “God Provides”
Text – Exodus 15:22-16:36
Last week, we left the Israelites in the wilderness, just having crossed the Red Sea, miraculously opened up for them and then having swallowed the threatening armies of Pharaoh. They break out into song lead by Moses’ sister, Miriam, “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea” (Exodus 15:21).
How long do you think this attitude of praise of God is going to last? [3 days]
LIFE IS A WILDERNESS - Exodus 15:22-27
“22 Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. 23 When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).
24 Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. 25 So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.
It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”
27 After leaving Marah, the Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water.”
In three days flat, these people went from praising God for His miraculous intervention, to doubting God’s ability to keep them alive in the wilderness. They had experienced firsthand God’s miraculous power as He divided the Red Sea, with walls of water on both sides, having safely crossed to the other side, then witnessed those same walls come crashing down on the Egyptians, once and for all putting an end to the threat they posed. The people were free…but in just three short days, we find them grumbling and threatening Moses. The pattern is quickly set for the people of Israel. As they wander in the wilderness, they face natural hardships, but each and every time, rather than turning to God for rescue, they turn on Moses and Aaron. Rather than looking to God for help in the wilderness, they simply look for a target to blame.
The thought that God might actually be using their experiences in the wilderness for their direct benefit appears never to have even crossed their minds. It might explain why God chose to have them live in the wilderness for over a year prior to their self-imposed extension of forty years. God needed to transform this group of pagan ex-slaves into His chosen people—capable of trusting Him, faithful to His commands, ready to respond in obedience whatever life brought their way. These were the people God was choosing to work through to convince the nations of His Lordship…but they just weren’t ready yet.
If we’re honest, we will recognize ourselves in the Israelites. Those who choose to follow Christ must also go through a time of transformation, a process that lasts a lifetime. None of us is ever rescued out of slavery to sin, perfectly ready to let go of control and to follow God’s leading with absolute trust.
Too often we buy into the notion, now that God is with us and has promised to take care of us, that all our troubles will vanish…we’ll never have to spend another moment in the wilderness. But that’s just not how life on this planet works. Our future home in heaven promises to be one of incredible and never-ending joy. Revelation 21:3-4 tells us that, “God’s home [will be] among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” But that’s future tense…our present is all about getting ready for that eventual day.
Life on planet earth is a ‘wilderness’…it is not the wonderful land God has promised to those who believe in Him and live to obey Him. But the wilderness is not an easy place to live. Three days into their lives as freed people, the Israelites have hit their first crisis—there’s no drinking water and they need water. Their desperation is growing and in their panic they turn hostile.
In the face of the crisis, the people complain. What does Moses do? [he prays] And God provides the solution: throw that piece of wood into the bitter water and it will become fresh enough to drink. Problem solved. The real question is, why this need to purify the water in the first place? God knew the people were getting thirsty, He knew that the water in its current state was undrinkable, so why not sort it out before they even showed up? Because He was up to something far bigger than simply quenching their thirst by providing water. He wanted to grow their faith and trust in Him.
It is an indisputable fact, that as much as we enjoy times of sunshine, ease and comfort, those are not the times we grow. In fact, it’s during those times that we have a propensity to become lazy and self-indulgent. It’s during difficulties and challenges that we grow in our character and faith. We can resist the lessons, grumble and complain, looking for someone to blame or we can turn to God, like Moses, and seek His solution.
Thankfully, God has no intention of crushing us during crisis, and He never gives us more than we can handle with His help. Don’t get me wrong. He will allow crisis into our lives capable of crushing us if we try to manage them on our own, but He has promised to help us when we ask for it. And so it is with the story of the Israelites. God never gave them more than they could handle without His help; He knew that they needed the motivation crisis would bring, for them to shift from trusting themselves to trusting Him.
So after getting nicely settled at the oasis in Elim and enjoying some semblance of comfort it was time to move on again to a new home…and a new crisis.
GOD ALLOWS AND EVEN ORCHESTRATES CRISIS – Exodus 16:1-5
“Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt. 2 There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron.
3 ‘If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,’ they moaned. ‘There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.’
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual.’
We find an interesting thing now happening in the Israelites’ thinking. In this crisis over food, they begin pining away for ‘the good old days.’ Hello…only one month ago these same people were slaves, now they’re looking back at their time in Egypt as somehow preferable? I’m sure in their minds eye it was better to have food in Egypt than to be starved to death in the wilderness. They still don’t get that there’s a third option. God was again providing an opportunity for them to grow in their trust and, instead, they turned on Moses and Aaron.
What about you and I? Do we ever find ourselves wishing for the ‘good old days’ in the midst of a crisis? How about the crisis of a worldwide pandemic? Anyone find themselves wishing we could just go back to the way things were? What are the things that we miss most? [someday, we will be able to once again enjoy no masks, be able to sing in public, gives hugs, eat out; but there is no going back to exactly how things were and, in many respects, we shouldn’t want to]
Looking back is not the solution. Perpetually looking in the rearview mirror prevents us from seeing what God wants to do in the days ahead. God has a purpose for allowing crisis and simply trying to eliminate all discomfort on our own or trying to find solutions that sidestep our need to change, rob us of the good things that God wants for us. Our refusal to seek Him in the midst of hardship, leaves us blind to His plan. And even in this we must be careful that our ‘seeking’ is simply us making demands of God to do our bidding—“Take this away so we can go back!” Instead we should be asking what God’s way forward is…what is His third option.
The Israelites had been in the wilderness for a month by this point and they are beginning to run out of food. God promises to provide quail that night and ‘food from heaven’ each morning from now until they reach the promised land; but His provision comes with a test. He doesn’t just want the Israelites to turn to Him in crisis; He now also wants them to learn daily obedience. So, God provides them with an opportunity to learn the necessity of obeying His directions. For five days in a row, they are to gather about two quarts (eight cups) of manna (which literally means, “What is it?”) per person and then on the sixth day they are to double that amount and not collect any on the seventh.
Pretty straightforward, right? That’s such a little thing. But not for the recently released slaves. They’re used to having food stuffs on hand, now God is asking them to trust Him, quite literally, to provide “their daily bread.” Think of it this way. How many of us would be willing to go and empty our cupboards, pantries, fridge and freezer of all food today and trust God to supply us with our meals for tomorrow? Puts it into a little different perspective, doesn’t it?
Understandably, some of the Israelites have trouble with even this baby step of obedience and on the first day, they keep some to be eaten the following day. But it doesn’t work out for them. This stuff has a shelf life of exactly one day and it turns wormy and stinks terribly. So, lesson learned everyone makes certain that none is left over on the days that follow. But here comes the second test; on the sixth day, they are to collect enough for two days, so that they can enjoy a complete day of rest on the seventh day. But again, some can’t resist the urge to disobey. And I can’t help but think the ones who failed the second part of the test were the exact same ones who failed the first—they had experienced the wormy stinking mess on the second morning and they weren’t about to go through that again. But when they went out the seventh morning, there wasn’t any manna and those same people now had to go the day hungry, unless there were others who were willing to share.
Obedience leads to further obedience. Disobedience often produces more of the same. It really is no different for us. It is only as we obey God’s leading that we experience growth, through the lessons that He has allowed and even designed for our good.
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED IN CRISIS – Exodus 16:33-35
“33 Moses said to Aaron, ‘Get a jar and fill it with two quarts of manna. Then put it in a sacred place before the Lord to preserve it for all future generations.’ 34 Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded Moses. He eventually placed it in the Ark of the Covenant—in front of the stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant. 35 So the people of Israel ate manna for forty years until they arrived at the land where they would settle. They ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.”
Why bother collecting a sample of the manna? So that future generations could hear about God’s miraculous help and believe, without needing to go through a similar crisis. The lessons we learn are to be passed down to the next generation, and the next…and so on.
It is obvious that God was allowing these crises to be experienced by the Israelites because they needed a transformation of heart and mind. They needed to learn how to trust God, to give over control to Him and allow Him to lead. But He has many reasons for allowing crises in our lives and the reasons are not always so clear.
What are some of the reasons that God allows crisis? I believe that there are many reasons why God allows us to experience crisis in this wilderness of life; I do not pretend to know every reason, but here are some I’ve been able to identify over the years:
· To grow our reliance on Him. God does this for us throughout our lives—as new believers and as spiritually mature. Think of our need to grow in our trust of God as a multi-level course that spans a lifetime.
· Some of the crisis we experience in life are as a direct result of sin—our own and that of others; ours is a sinful world and much of what happens is as a direct result of the sin that is so pervasive. God continues to honour His gift of freewill to us and we often make choices that hurt ourselves and others. God never promised to eliminate all consequences for humanity’s wrong choices, but He will help us make restitution and/or forgive when we seek His help. He can give us peace, even in our world of turmoil, when we turn to Him for direction. Instead of blaming God for the bad things that happen, we should be thanking God for any good that we experience which is as a direct result of His intervention.
· So that we don’t get overly comfortable here—planet earth is not our home; we are God’s Ambassadors, called to represent Him and tell others about the new country we now belong to.
· To recognize our need to help others. I believe that Hope Chapel as a congregation has been in a crisis of sorts, even before the pandemic, to show us that we needed to change our focus. God has been using crisis to get Hope Chapel, and much of His Church, back on track.
· A crisis can be the first step to providing a solution to a bigger problem. It can force us to acknowledge that, even though we’ve been able to keep our nose above water, we are officially going to sink if we don’t reach out for help. Again, we have been experiencing that first hand at Hope Chapel and I thank God that He is providing us with the means to stay afloat even during this pandemic, when on our own we could not.
So what are the lessons that we can learn from our spiritual ancestry, the Israelites, as God’s chosen people?
· Life on planet earth is a wilderness—but we are heading to a land of ‘milk and honey,’ the land of God’s promise, His heavenly Kingdom.
· This life is filled with crises, but rather than trying to avoid all hardship, God can use each crisis He permits in our lives to transform us.
· Crisis can cause us to resist God further as we look for someone to blame, or it can draw us closer to God as we learn to trust Him. It is entirely dependent on our choice.
Jesus, Himself, warned us that, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
References & for Further Study
Sunday, June 13, 2021- “Don’t Presume” (Exodus 17, Numbers 20:1-13) - ONLINE Only
Weekly lessons are now being made available on Youtube – “Pastor’s Study” https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrF8GWFnLjTmRyXjYnq1Ytw
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
Daily Devotional – Thursday, June 3, 2021
“God says, ‘I know what you are saying, for I know every thought that comes into your minds.’” (Ezekiel 11:5b, NLT)
The idea that anything can be hidden from our ever-present, all-knowing, all-seeing God is one of the most ludicrous notions ever imagined. Whether good or bad, nothing escapes the eye of God. Even though He may not respond immediately, never doubt that good done for Him will be rewarded and disobedience will be punished. It should be an obvious fact, but how often do we accuse God of abandoning us? Of not caring? Of being blind to our situation? But the truth of the matter is that He is still present and attentive even at times when He chooses to respond with silence.
The prophet Ezekiel was provided a rare glimpse into the ‘secret’ activities that were taking place back in Jerusalem. He himself was a captive in Babylon, but in Ezekiel 8-11, we read how God’s Spirit transports Ezekiel in a vision back to Jerusalem and shows him some of the ‘hidden’ things that were happening. Within the Temple, an idol had been set-up near God’s altar; Ezekiel is given entrance into a closed room where seventy leaders are in the process of worshipping many false gods; he sees women weeping for the god Tammuz; and within the Temple courtyard, twenty-five men are bowing and worshipping the sun! They think that God has abandoned them and therefore is blind to this idolatry. But He has seen it all and shows it to His prophet Ezekiel. God tells Ezekiel that He has every intention of rewarding those who have remained faithful and of punishing those who have rejected Him.
Sometimes, rather than accuse God of abandoning us, we wonder if there is any purpose for the good that we do in the face of so much chaos in our world today. Can our small contributions of obedience—being merciful, showing kindness, being generous—make any sort of significant impact for God and His Kingdom? In Jesus’ sermon (Matthew 5-7), He encourages the crowd not to make public displays of their prayers, fasting and acts of generosity. God Himself will see and reward each act of faithfulness done away from the public eye. Even when our acts of obedience go unseen by those around us, God has promised to reward us. Nothing escapes His notice. Nothing done for Him is ‘small’ in His eyes. When He promises to reward or punish, we can be assured that it will be so, for nothing is missed under His ever-watchful care.
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional–Wednesday, June 2,2021
“If righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and ignore the obstacles I put in their way, they will die. And if you do not warn them, they will die in their sins. None of their righteous acts will be remembered, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn righteous people not to sin and they listen to you and do not sin, they will live, and you will have saved yourself, too.” (Ezekiel 3:20-21, NLT)
At the age of thirty, God called Ezekiel to be a prophet. He was to provide God’s warnings to the people. I wonder if Ezekiel was a little hesitant. It might explain God’s direct warning to Ezekiel himself, “If you do not warn them…I will hold you responsible for their deaths.” God actually says this same thing twice. It applied equally to the messages Ezekiel was to share with both the wicked and the righteous. Ezekiel is not being held to account for people’s responses to his messages, but he will have to give an account for not having done his part to provide the timely warnings given to him by God.
We may not take seriously Jesus’ command for His followers to disciple, baptize and teach others, to love our enemies, to pray for those who curse us, and to share God’s News of His available restoration with the world…but God does. Is our responsibility really any different from Ezekiel’s? Aren’t we still called to provide people with God’s warning? No, we can’t make anyone accept the truth, but that’s not our job. Ours is to share the truth that we know. We may not be called to be prophets in the strictest sense of the word, but we are all to be Ambassadors of God’s heavenly kingdom. Heaven forbid that our resistance to sharing our faith in God would result in the eternal death of someone simply because we refused to share.
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional – Tuesday, June 1, 2021
“Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself.” (Ezekiel 3:10, NLT)
Ezekiel was amongst the first group of Judean captives to be taken to Babylon. At the age of thirty, while a captive far from home, God called Ezekiel to speak for Him to the Israelites. He gave him fantastical visions of four-faced and four winged creatures atop wheels that moved at the spirit’s direction; these always faced forward without turning around no matter what direction they were moving at lightning speed. Ezekiel was given tasks to do that made little sense: for instance, he was to build a replica of Jerusalem then lie on his side for an accumulated 430 days—first on his left for 390 days then on his right 40 days. He was given a message from God to share, which God told him ahead of time would be rejected and that he would be hated for.
Ezekiel is not an easy book for modern readers to understand. The events having taken place approximately 2,600 years ago, written in a style that, while popular in its day, leave us somewhat baffled. But something new stood out to me today. Buried amidst the visions, tasks and warnings is God’s instruction for Ezekiel—“Before you share my message with others, take my instruction to heart.” In our world of quick condemnation, judgments and shaming, it is an instruction we should all be taking to heart. Ezekiel was called to share God’s judgment, but was not to do so from a position of superiority. The teacher needed to recognize that he too was a student. The prophecies God was going to give him were as much for him, the prophet, as they were for the rebellious recipients. Before Ezekiel could share God’s warning, he was to first apply it to his own life.
What would happen if we would all do that? If before reacting to others and spouting off our good advice, God’s commandments and biblical correctives, we stopped and considered our own lives alongside the advice and judgment we can be so quick to share. What if we took Jesus’ directions to heart? “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). Jesus is not telling us that there is never a place and time to correct another who is struggling with sin, as some have assumed. His words to us are the same as God’s were to Ezekiel. Before we share God’s corrective message with another, we must first examine our own lives under the same light. It will make all the difference between being a ‘helper’ and just being a ‘hypocrite.’ God absolutely wants His followers to share with others the truth that we know, but until we have first learned to live it our words will carry no weight. We must let God’s word sink deep into our own hearts first, then we will be able to speak into another’s life—not from a position of superiority, but as someone who has learned to live God’s message.
~ 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!