The Opportunity that Awaits Us

As Israel journeys through the wilderness there are multiple occasions we see them play the pessimist. First they’re going to die hemmed in by the sea. Then they wish for death back in Egypt for lack of food. Then they accuse Moses of trying to kill them when they were thirsty. Unfortunately complaining was a pattern for them.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 24
Key Verse: “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:28


But in today’s passage there is nothing but optimism. In fact, it’s a bit of a party. It’s covenant confirmation day. The day Israel entered into relationship with the LORD. In many ways we could think of it like a marriage ceremony. Since Egypt God had been wooing them. Showing them His might and sovereignty and power through the plagues and then the crossing of the Red Sea. Then revealing His ability to provide through the manna and the giving of water.

Upon reaching Mt. Sanai, God spoke to Israel himself laying out the Ten Commandments. But Israel was terrified so instead they suggest, “Hey Moses, from now on why don’t you just talk to God on our behalf.” Which God was fine with because it’s only by way of a mediator (Jesus Christ), personified in the work and person of Moses, that any of us can have a relationship with God in the first place.

So up the mountain Moses goes to receive the rest of the judgments – the remaining stipulations that would make up the book of the covenant. Once the LORD finished giving these to Moses verse 3 says, “Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules.” (The things we’ve been discussing the past few weeks.)

And the people together said, “We’ll do it!” They saw nothing wrong with the LORD’s stipulations. It sounded well and good to them. In other words, God made the proposal and Israel said yes! So Moses moves to the next step of ratification and writes it all down (v. 4). (Just like we would today if we were entering into a contract.)

Then Moses “rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.” And he had certain young men offer burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar. (The altar represented God, while the pillars represented the people.)

Upon the last of the offerings Moses took half the blood that was spilt and threw it on the altar. (Blood on the altar, are we surprised?) Then he read the Book of the Covenant out loud to the people (think of this as the official marriage ceremony) and Israel responded, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” (v. 7). (There’s that optimism again.) In other words, Israel said, “I do.”

With a verbal agreement in place Moses took the blood and threw it on the people or perhaps he threw it on the pillars representing the people. Scholars go both ways on that. Hebrews 9 tells us Moses mixed the blood “with water and scarlet wool and hyssop” and also sprinkled the book of the covenant with blood, indicating the covenant was now a matter of life or death.

And for a few brief moments God and Israel were in fellowship together. With the covenant yet to be broken, Moses and Aaron and Aaron’s sons and seventy elders “went up and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness” (v. 9-10).

I know it’s hard to believe, but that’s what it says. They saw the God of Israel.

Verse 11 goes on to say, “they beheld God, and ate and drank.” The word beheld in the Hebrew indicates really seeing and taking it in. It wasn’t just a quick glance. They didn’t have to look away. They weren’t distraught on their faces. They weren’t terrified. They looked and beheld and ate and drank in the presence of God.

Can you imagine? Unbroken fellowship with God. Yet that is exactly what God wants for all of us. It’s not by accident the elders ate and drank with God after entering into covenant with Him. It portrays our ability to fellowship with God and be in His presence through the new covenant in Jesus Christ.

Because it’s still by way of covenant we enter into relationship with God. A covenant today based on grace instead of works. A covenant ratified with Christ’s blood, instead of a burnt offering. Sealed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, instead of our own weak words.

Jesus said to the disciples at the last supper, “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Invited into relationship, covered with Christ’s righteousness, it’s the pure in heart who get to see God (Matt. 5:8). Though it’s not face to face until we step into eternity, there is a beautiful fellowship available even now for the believer. Through the abiding of us in Him and He in us, we can see and know and have fellowship with this brilliant God Israel beheld.

The opportunity is there.

The problem is we more often than not forsake the feast for famine, by keeping company with idols, instead of keeping company with Christ. And then we wonder why we still feel empty. Which is like laying on the floor complaining about how hungry we are when the table is full of food.

Seek me and find me, says God (Jer. 29:13). “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). (What a promise, huh?) My friend, fellowship with God is not an unlikely fantasy. It’s not a fairy-tale. It’s the reality of the one who seeks for it knowing there is no great accomplishment than to sit or run or cry or laugh or work in the light of the holy God.

It didn’t take long for Israel to break covenant with God. Yet God was busy weaving another way. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).

In covenant relationship with Christ, the opportunity is there to eat and drink and behold this great God both now and for eternity. It’s what God intends for each of us. To know him and be with him. To see him through creation. To behold Christ through his word, his Spirit, and his people.

But are we too busy? Distracted? Stubborn? Are we lying on the floor complaining about how hungry we are when the table is filled to overflowing with food? Or perhaps we’re merely eating the crumbs off the floor when there’s a chair, with our name on it, right next to Jesus.

It’s a grace filled God who not only paves the way for fellowship but grants us the means to behold him not just once or twice, but all-day long. Oh that we might bask in the opportunity! For His perfect, powerful, and peace filled presence wasn’t just for Israel, it’s for us too.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What differences do you see between the covenant ratified with Israel at Mt. Sanai and the New Covenant given in Christ?
What blessings do we gain because of the New Covenant?
Are you part of the New Covenant? If so, do you take advantage of the fellowship with God offered to you?

Promises For Israel; But What About Us?

The other day I found myself trying to explain to my daughter what a role of film is. “Well it’s this thing we use to put in our cameras. It was all coiled up. And it stored the pictures.” She was amazed and shocked and slightly horrified she might be getting one for her birthday.

Don’t worry dear girl.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 23:20-33
Key Verse: “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” Deuteronomy 7:9


But in all seriousness, do you remember how exciting it was to develop a role of film? I would beg to go to the store. But now, we just snap and look and trash and try again, until we get the perfect one. On our phones for cryin’ out loud. Then we upload and share and pretend people actually care that my child just built a Lego tower taller than he is. No more waiting! No more developing 192 photos so you can throw 190 of them in the trash and keep two.

Times sure have changed huh? We could name a million ways life is different today than it used to be. Especially if we go back to Bible times. Yet we could also name a million ways nothing has changed! As Solomon said by way of the Spirit, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9).

Indeed. We still live and die and laugh and love and struggle and celebrate and make memories and rock babies and worry and dread the thought of goodbye. While much of life has changed, much remains the same. Including – the God we serve.

He’s still the same you know (Heb. 13:8). Unchanging in all his ways (James 1:17). Which is what we have to keep in mind when looking at a passage like Exodus 23:20-33. It’s the closing segment of the book of the Covenant. It reiterates to Israel God’s promise of land and a permanent home. It’s the explanation point at the end of a long list of “do this” and “don’t do that’s” because it holds the promise of what God will do if Israel chooses obedience.

Obedience that included not just following the law, but the Lord. “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him” (Ex. 23:20-21).

This was no ordinary angel they were to obey. This angel could pardon sin or not pardon sin. An angel who held the very character of God within him. There is only one who holds the radiance of God’s glory within and it is none other than Jesus Christ. Who we know was with Israel from passages like 1 Corinthians 10:4, “And all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”

But Christ didn’t just follow them, he lead them (Ex. 23:23). And if Israel obeyed his voice, then Christ would go before them defeating every one of their enemies. Sending terror on the people of Canaan, confusing them, driving out the Hivites and Canaanites and Hittites, blotting them from existence (Ex. 23:27-29).

Though God would do it little by little, not in one year, “lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you” (Ex. 23:29). Oh how I often want God to just hurry up and fix things! Then when He doesn’t I convince myself He doesn’t care. But here, with Israel, his slowness was an act of love and protection over them. A practical but purposeful delay. A means to draw them close. It’s a lie of the devil to think God doesn’t care. A lie I believe more than I should.

But the bottom line is, no matter how long it took to possess the land, Israel need not fear, for Christ was with them. A truth that has yet to change. Though for Israel – it was conditional on obedience.

If they obeyed, God would not only give them the land but bless their bread and their water.  Keep them healthy and strong, no sickness would befall them. None would miscarry or be barren. (Not even the animals – Deut. 7:14). There borders would be set and unmovable. Life would be established and full and multiplied and abundant. (My lands, they had every reason to obey!)

But you know what, so do we, though the promises we cling to are different, in the end the outcome will be the same.

We cannot say today that anyone who miscarries or struggles with infertility must be living apart from God. No, no, let’s not go there. Nor can we assume the same for anyone who has cancer. I’ve been to the funerals of some very godly men in the past several years. And I assure you, God was with them to the very end. Honored in both their life and their death.

No, these specific conditional promises were for Israel alone. But their spiritual parallels are for us. And just like Israel, it’s through obedience we’ll get to experience them.

1. You better believe God is still in the business of defeating enemies. But the enemy is no longer next door. Need I remind you, those are our neighbors, whom we’re to love. The real enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us. But not to worry – “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom. 16:20).

2. And God is still in the business of blessing. Just look around. He’s still providing. In His way; In His timing. But it’s no longer material blessing and health and wellness that showcases God’s glory to the world, as it was in Israel’s day. Today, it’s God’s ability to bring us through even the toughest of circumstances that makes the world stop and wonder. For “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), no matter the valley, no matter the mountain.

But one day, in the not so distant future we’ll know and experience the promises given to Israel as well. In eternity. In the presence of Christ. With borders forever secure. Free of sickness, free of heartbreak, abundance will have no bounds.

Times may have changed my friend, but our God never has. The victory and hope is still ours.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
How are the promises given to Israel different than the promises we have? How are they the same?
What promises are you currently clinging to? How does the idea that God gave Israel victory in Canaan little by little, encourage you today?

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The Kind of People We Really Are vs. The Kind of God We Serve (It’s a love story you need to know.)

I’ve said some interesting things in parenting. Things I never thought I would need to say. Things like:

“Stop licking your brother’s feet. There will be no licking of feet in this house.”

“Do not eat your boogers. All boogers no matter how big or small need to go in a tissue and placed in the trash can.”

“We do not spit in people’s faces.”

“I’m sorry, but you have to wear clothes.” (I mean, honestly.)

But apparently my children are not above any of these things and well, needed to hear them.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 22:16 – 23:19
Key Verse: “You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”  Leviticus 20:26


And as I studied the second half of God’s civil laws, I realized God – as the perfect parent, knew we too – as sinful beings – are above nothing. So He went ahead and said the things you’d think would have gone without saying. Things apparently, we needed to hear.

Things like: (And these are all my paraphrase.)

“If you have sex with a virgin, she is now your wife. You need to pay the bride price.” (22:16)

“Have nothing to do with sorcery.” (22:18)

“You can not have sex with animals.” (22:19) (You’d think this was a given.)

“Be nice to foreigners.” (22:21)

“Do not take advantage of widows or fatherless children.” (22:22) (It’s sad God had to tell us this.)

“Do not say disrespectful things about me or any ruler for that matter.” (22:28) (Oh boy.)

“Don’t say lies about people.” (23:1)

Mmhmm, and that’s just a small sampling. There’s more. Go read it if you haven’t yet. Just click here. And God was serious. Many of these laws if broken, were punishable by death.

He then goes on to say, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him” (Ex. 23:4-5). In other words, “Be nice, not hateful.”

Did He really have to tell us that? Yes, yes He did. It’s not in us to naturally do what’s right. I know, disappointing, but it’s true. Even on our best days, we’re still quite the deplorable bunch. (See Romans 3:9-18 for further clarification on the matter.)

But these laws or judgments or regulations or commandments (whatever you want to call them) go beyond just being nice. They go beyond trying to stay on God’s good side. Beyond trying to follow a few rules. (Beyond trying to keep your blue bulldog name tag out of the doghouse – as was my lofty goal every day of my kindergarten career.)

They go beyond the external to the internal. God’s judgments providing the perfect boundaries to embark each of us on a path of holiness.

The problem is, we can’t do it. No matter how hard we try none of us follow the law perfectly. And according to James 2:10 even if we break just one law, we’re guilty of breaking all of it. (Why do I feel like my blue bulldog just got pinned to the doghouse?)

Our only hope is redemption through Jesus Christ. By grace through faith when we come to Him for salvation, believing in his death, burial, and resurrection, Christ in essence signs his name next to ours. It’s “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Rom. 3:22).

And it’s beautiful. A sacrifice so unconditional we never would have done it. Nope we can’t even pretend for a minute that we would have. Not us, a people who have to be told over and over again to be nice and not hateful.

But our inadequacies don’t mean we’re off the hook. (Get ready for the clencher.) The moment holiness is granted, holiness is expected. To be set apart in God means to be set apart for God. In Leviticus 20:26 God says it this way, “You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”

Holiness was expected because holiness had been given. In today’s passage God says it this way, “You shall be consecrated to me.” In other words, because I saved you – you have a responsibility to me. Which reminded me of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…You are not your own for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Hallelujah redemption wasn’t just for Israel! But that means neither is holiness. Ephesians 1:4 says of believers, “Even as he [God] chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Parenthesis mine.)

We, the deplorable bunch that we are, set apart before the world even began to live and love God. It’s amazing! But how are we doing at it? (I know, I don’t like that question either.) Redemption comes with responsibility. Grace might be free, but that doesn’t mean we have the freedom to live however we want. It means we have the freedom to live a holy life! An expectation not possible apart from Jesus Christ.

You see, to establish holiness in Jesus Christ, is to emanate holiness through of a changed life. The power of the Holy Spirit at work in every one of God’s beloved. Not that we do it perfectly. No, no, step inside my house and you’ll see how flawed I am.

And that’s what gets me. We’re a messed-up humanity. The kind of people who have to be told not to have sex with animals or sleep around or take advantage of widows or join hands with a wicked man or pervert justice. I mean, how awful can we get? Yet, Jesus Christ died for us anyway.

We don’t deserve to worship Him. We don’t deserve to be part of His kingdom. We are unworthy of any sort of invitation. Yet God says, come to the throne. Come and worship me. I have redeemed you. I have set you apart. You are mine. I will put my Spirit within you. I will help you. I will be with you.

Oh it’s lovely, this God we serve, this love story we live. It’s worth living. It’s worth trying. It’s worth every effort I can give. But it’s a love experienced one way and one way only – through faith in Jesus Christ. Who set aside the holiness of heaven, to come and save a deplorable people, like us.

Something I think we should think about.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
As a whole, does the world tend to view humanity as good or bad? What does the Bible say about humanity?
In what ways does the offer of redemption prove God’s love for us? Have you received it? If so, in what situation can you today live out the holiness you’ve been granted by faith in Jesus Christ?

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God’s Design for Society. Maybe It’s Time We Look.

“Be responsible.” How many times have you wanted to scream it at the TV? Or a professional athlete? Or a politician? Or your children? (Hmm, seems I don’t have enough fingers and toes.) For some reason being responsible is not something that runs parallel with our natural desires. Instead, it’s just easier to shrink back and blame someone else.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 21:12 – 22:15
Key Verse: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10


Especially if the elicited result was merely an accident. Right? I mean who wants to take responsibility when you didn’t mean to do it? No one, that’s who. For example, the following is a common conversation I have all the time with my beautiful little blessings:

“Mom, he hit me!” says child A.
“But I didn’t mean to!” says child B.
“Well even if you didn’t mean to, you need to apologize and take responsibility for your actions,” says the exasperated mother.
“But I DIDN’T mean to!!” says child B louder this time.
“It doesn’t matter whether you meant to or not. Tell your brother you’re sorry for hitting him,” says the exasperated mother A LITTLE LOUDER THIS TIME.

Can I get an amen? I know I’m not the only one repeatedly having this conversation. In fact, I’m just sure you’re nodding your head in agreement right now.

Taking responsibility for our actions is not something we like to do, nor want to do, nor take any pleasure in doing, but it’s Biblical. (Surprise, surprise.)  Exodus 21 and 22, our text today, leaves no room for doubt on the matter. In both passages God expounds on the law by giving a list of rules or examples that were to help Israel’s leaders judge cases, usually at the city gate. So beginning with instances of personal injury done to others, like, well, murder the LORD covers an array of incidents on down to the accidental injury of a neighbor’s animal.

These rulings were part of the Book of the Covenant Israel agreed to live by in Exodus 24. It helped them function as a nation. Remember they had been under the not so wonderful example of Egyptian jurisdiction for almost half a century. So it was important God set some new parameters if they were to be His treasured possession and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6).

In every case or ruling the punishment was to fit the crime. There were no million-dollar lawsuits for a cup of spilled coffee. The principle used was Lex Talionis. Described in Exodus 21:23 like this, “But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

However, the only instance we see this play out literally is with murder. If someone purposefully took the life of another, he was to pay with his own life. Yes, the Bible supports Capital punishment my friend. God values the sanctity of life too much not to. Only in the case of an accidental death was the offender’s life to be spared.

Otherwise Lex Talionis was not to be taken literally, especially in matters of personal dispute. If someone cut your ear off, it wasn’t a free pass to turn around and cut off theirs. That’s not what God had in mind as Christ makes clear in Matthew 5. Lex Talionis was to be the principle guide used by Israel’s judicial system (consisting mostly of elders at the city gate). It insured punishment for the offender, all the while protecting them from being unjustly punished.

The idea is appropriate restitution. If you wrong a brother (or sister for that matter), then make it right. If it’s an injury, pay for their time off work and the medical care needed to get better (Ex. 21:19). If you harm your slave – let them go free (v. 26). If you dig a pit and your neighbors donkey falls into it, pay for your neighbor to get a new donkey (v. 34). If your animals graze in your neighbor’s field, make restitution by giving them the best of your own field (22:5).

In other words, BE RESPONSIBLE.

If you make a mess, clean it up! If you borrow a friend’s shovel and it breaks don’t just give them back a broken shovel; buy them a new one, even if it was an accident. If you push someone down, help them up, even if you didn’t mean to send them to the floor.

Be a neighbor. This was God’s hope for his people. And it told the Israelites they served a fair God. A fact I’ve contested with God from time to time when I didn’t get my way, but the revealing of his law clearly paints the portrait of a fair God.

However, enforcing these standards is not the job of the offended, but the official or the judge or the jury sitting inside a sweltering hot courtroom. (I don’t know why, it just seems like it should be sweltering hot in there.) But my personal responsibility is forgiveness and love and peace and kindness that I might be an instrument of righteousness God uses to bring the lost to saving faith. (The heart of what Christ was getting at in Matthew 5.)

So there is responsibility on all sides my friend. No one gets off scotch free. My neighbor might owe me a new shovel, but I owe my neighbor the hand of forgiveness and the decency to not tell everyone in town he broke my shovel.

But the problem is we’ve set aside the example God’s laid out for us in Exodus 21 and 22. One of respect and decency towards one another. One of restitution. One of responsibility. One in which the punishment fits the crime. Our legal system has gone both ways. Handing out victorious lawsuits for vain charges. And/or not handing out insufficient correction for convicted criminals.

Now I may not be able to do anything about the government that oversees me, but I can certainly do something about the God who oversees me. I can honor Him by recognizing his sovereign design for society and model it. I can take responsibility for my actions and teach my children to do the same. I can say I’m sorry even when it was merely an accident. I can buy new shovels when necessary and keep my mouth shut and reign in my heart when required.

I can know God’s word and I can live it myself. Because God’s ways are not old fashion, but expertly crafted for a people He knew would have ample opportunities to say, “I’m sorry,” and make restitution for the error of their ways.

Bottom line – I can be responsible for my heart and mind and actions and reactions. Because living accountable for our actions is not just a fleeting hope we have for our government officials or the professional athlete our kids look up to so much. But it’s the hope of God for all of us.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What do you need to take responsibility for today? And where do you need to extend the hand of forgiveness?
In what ways is God’s design for society upheld today and in what ways is it not?

It's the hope of God

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God’s Take On Slavery, It Just Might Change Your Take On God

Slavery is wrong. Let’s just start with that. To force someone routinely against their own will – not OK. Personally, when I think of slavery, I think of the sex trafficking epidemic and I want to spit in someone’s face. (Monsters.) (I will never understand.) But maybe you think of the enslavement of blacks in the pre-Civil War days. Or an experience in your own home that’s left scars – lasting bruises too painful to talk about right now. (I know it doesn’t cut it, but I’m sorry. I wish I could give you a hug.)


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 21:1-11
Key Verse: “But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.” Exodus 21:5-6


That being said, to turn the page after resigning ourselves to obey the Ten Commandments and see the title “Laws About Slaves” at the beginning of Exodus 21, well, it feels a little traitorous. Um, excuse me but, how could He? Is the LORD advocating slavery?

I know, I agree, it doesn’t feel right. But it’s not what the average passerby thinks. It’s actually quite beautiful, so let’s not be the average passerby.

The rules or judgments listed in these first eleven verses are for regulating what was already there. Slavery, or in this case maybe we should say indentured servitude, was a part of life. They knew it well. And actually, many depended on it. To disallow it would have been devastating to the poor community and/or those who found themselves in financially dire times.

Note in verse two it says, “When you buy a Hebrew slave.” (Emphasis mine.) In other words, when a fellow brother comes to you and asks if he can work for you in exchange for room, board, and wages, take him in if you are able. Let him serve you for six years, but in the seventh set him free (v. 3). (Keeping in mind their own redemption from Egypt.) But don’t just send him away empty handed. Provide him with any and every provision he needs for a fresh start (Deut. 15:12-18).

“If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him” (v. 3). However, if his master gave him a wife and she bore him sons and daughters then the wife and children belong to the master.

I know, you’re struggling with that one. I did too. A husband and wife should not have to separate. But they didn’t have to… “If the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever” (v. 5-6). (The ear is symbolic of the servant hearing and obeying every word of the master.)

The goal was for the master to treat his hired servants so well, they never wanted to leave. Can you imagine a society wherein servants decided to stay with their masters because life just couldn’t get any better? That’s the kind of slavery God was advocating. The kind that treated people as people. The kind that gave them second chances and warm beds at night and food on the table. The kind that provided comradery instead of condemnation.

It’s what God does for us. Plucking us from the grip of death unto life and provisions and peace and relationship. Offering us mercy and grace in exchange for a life of service unto He who is the most kind and loving master there is.

But this whole set up isn’t primarily to be a picture of us as the servant, but actually a picture of Christ. (Are you sitting down? This might blow your socks off.) Do you know what Isaiah 42 describes Christ as? A servant. (Of all the things, who would have guessed a servant?)

Philippians 2:5b-6 says, “Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.”

Christ lived every minute of his time on earth in perfect obedience to the Father. He served his time and could have gone free. But out of love for his people, his church, his bride, all the precious souls the Father had given him (John 6:39), Christ went to the doorpost (the cross) and didn’t just have his ear pierced, but his entire body, that he might stay with his bride forever.

David said in Psalm 40:6 “In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear.” Which can also be translated “ears you have dug for me.” When the master bore the servants ear through with an awl he was making a hole or opening in the ear.

This same verse is then applied to Christ in Hebrews 10 but instead of saying “open ear” it says, “but a body have you prepared for me.” In full surrender and obedience Christ’s body was opened for us. Holes in his wrists and side, holes that Thomas touched (John 21:27).

All so he could stay with his bride.

Now as we read further in the passage there are a still a few question marks to work through. Like the more stringent laws for women, who were not to be set free every seventh year as the men were (Ex. 21:7). I know it sounds wrong, but we have to keep in mind women had little to no rights in society at that time. So to set a girl free, was not to offer her freedom but more likely cold, hungry nights on the street. With no one to care for her or shelter her or keep her safe

God was not being commandeering towards women, but compassionate. He wanted his girls cared for! Furthermore, the hope of a father who sold his daughter to a man was that eventually the wealthy man might marry or give her as a wife to his son, thus improving her status and giving her the rights of a wealthy land owners daughter.

Much as God, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, gave us to His son, improving our status and granting us the rights of an heir. (Did you know you are the daughter of a wealthy land owner now?)

My friend, verse 16 is clear, it’s not slavery God is advocating here, but service and respect and providing for one’s neighbors. But most of all God is advocating love, knowing one day, His own Son would graciously and willingly bore his body through.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What does the servant boring his ear through with an awl picture in this passage?
Have you “bore your ear” by promising to faithfully serve the LORD? Does your life reflect such a commitment?
How is God and good and loving master?

awl to bore a slave

We Bring Nothing to the Table

If there’s a character quality that binds us all together, I think it’s this: We want to bring something to the table. Something of importance or necessity. Something we can be known for. Whether it falls in the category of showmanship or salesmanship we want to be good at something. To be a team member the team can’t live without. Or the missing piece to a puzzle.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 20:22-26
Key Verse: “An altar of earth you shall make for me…If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it.” Exodus 20:24-25


We may squawk about the necessity of alone time (at least I do) but deep down it feels good to be needed. In the work place or the home place or the places we favor in between, it’s nice to think we provide (at least in some small manner) a benefit helpful to someone else. A skill, a strength, a shoulder, some smarts, a home cooked meal for a new mama, or at the very least some level headed common sense we’d be happy to share if the world would just listen.

And if none of that is needed, then excuse me while I go eat a tub of ice cream and head back to bed. Because disappointment will abound.

Perhaps that’s why it’s hard for some to accept Christianity. Because truth be told when it comes to salvation, we bring nothing to the table. No works in and of themselves are good enough to get me into heaven. There’s no quota I can fill. No talents or abilities that can help. No amount of good I can accomplish to get me on the right side of eternity.

Because plain and simple, I’m a sinner. We all are. Imperfections and short comings thrive in each one of us. (Sorry for the bad news.) So apart from the righteousness of Christ placed in the account of a believer, we’ve got nothing. “For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:22b-24).

To try and justify ourselves apart from Christ is like offering God a pile of menstrual rags and asking, “Here is this good enough?” Disgusting right? But that’s what scripture says our best efforts amount to (Isaiah 64:6).

Now to be clear, I’m not talking about the works we do in Christ. God finds those beautiful. Spirit rendered fruit is not rags. It’s a tapestry God himself is weaving. One that will line the walls of heaven for all eternity.

No, what I’m talking about is the stuff we do beforehand. The things we try and do to prove our worth to God prior to coming to Christ. And every time we come up short.

Look what God says to the Israelites just before entering the Promised Land. “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people” (Deut. 9:6). It wasn’t because of them, it was because of Him. God did it all. They brought nothing to the table.

Which brings us to our text today. Directly after the Ten Commandments God gives instructions concerning altars. The main point being this: Any altar they built was to either be of dirt or unhewn stone. Meaning no tools were to be used on the altar. No work of man was to be added to the altar of sacrifice.

But why? That’s the question we want to search out. Why was it so important for no chisel to be used? Because the altar pictured the cross, upon which the Lamb of God, would give His life. And to chisel on the altar was to bring works to the cross. And man can add nothing to the cross. It was all Jesus. It was all God.

It’s God who chooses us.

“Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:4).

It’s God who draws us.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).

It’s God who nails our sin to the cross.

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2: 13-14).

It’s He who grants us repentance, leading to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 2:25). It’s He who gives us life (Eph. 2:4-5). “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself” (2 Cor. 5:18).

To think we’re responsible for any of it is to bring tools to the altar. But every bit of salvation is the powerful working of God (Col. 2:12). From the drawing to the choosing to the saving to the sealing.

Then on the last day it’s Christ who will raise us up (John 6:40). It’s Christ who will and already has declared the victory (Col. 2:15). We’ve got no reason to boast, but every reason to bow. We have done nothing; He has done everything.

In addition, there could be no steps up to the altar as the pagan shrines often had. Because there could be no going up to God, it is God that would come to us. Redeeming every sinner willing to recognize His ability to do so.

Truly, to realize I bring nothing to the table, yet understand I now belong there, is to sit in the depths of God’s amazing grace.

Think of it this way, the instructions for the dirt or unhewn altar of stone are given on the heels of the Ten Commandments because God knew they would break every one of his rules. So out of mercy God wasted no time in telling them how to construct an altar for when they did. An altar with rough, jagged, perhaps awkward, sometimes difficult to handle, unhewn stone. Because neither they, nor we, can bring anything to the table of salvation. It’s God who does the work at the altar and God who works in our life.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Do you see salvation as something you’ve earned or something you’ve been given? How should the depths of God’s grace effect our day to day living?

7 Evidences God is Good (Found in the Most Unlikely of Places)

“God is good.” Have you said it? Perhaps on the heels of a promotion or a problem solved or a pleasant night with family or friends, you’ve felt the words swell in your heart until it broke through on your lips.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 20:13-21
Key Verse: “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.” Psalm 25:8


Nothing wrong with that! I praise the LORD alongside you for his kindness toward mankind. Though it’s not our circumstances that make God good. It’s not the outcome of a situation that determines God’s virtue. He is good with or without us. He is good whether we’re happy or sad. Whether our dreams come true or crumble to pieces.

All the time, His steadfast goodness pours forth, in ways we can’t even comprehend. Even amid the Ten Commandments, His goodness shines brightly. Though on the surface, it may not seem like it with a list of “you shall not’s” a mile long.

A list that reads like this: “You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Ex. 20:13-17).

Phew! And if that isn’t enough, Jesus took each of these rules a step further by making it not just a command of action but of heart.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:21-22

And then He went on…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28

It’s condemning, isn’t it? How can any man live that perfectly? The answer is, we can’t. It will never happen. It’s impossible to measure up to God’s perfect standards. Which is why salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works of the law (Galatians 2:16).

(Our first evidence that He is good.)

But we should still try. Because God’s law is not just a list of “shall not’s” for the sake of making life hard on us, but as a parent sets rules for a child, they are there for our protection! Take the sixth commandment for example, “You shall not murder.”  Not only is it flat out wrong to unjustly take the life of another, but the hatred that comes first will ruin anyone who embarks on such a path.

And the envy and anger and bitterness that comes before the hatred will eat you alive. Holding you captive. Keeping you from a life of peace and joy. Therefore God said, “Don’t even think about it.” Not because He’s mean but because He’s loving. Caring so much about the life we’re living He gave us the stipulations necessary to live well. Making the sixth commandment more than just a command not to murder, but a protection over life, the very life we’re living right now. (Our second piece of evidence that God is good.)

(Side Note: If it’s not okay for us to do it, then why is it okay for us to watch it on TV? Just a little something to think about.)

But what about the seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” can we see God’s goodness there? You better believe it. It’s God who gave us marriage. It’s God who brought the first man and woman together. (Evidence enough in my opinion.) Establishing an intimacy so deep and fragile it’s to be guarded with a valid effort.

An effort that involves not even looking on another with lust. Because if you do – it’s like pouring gasoline all over a dry wheat field and then waiting for the lightning to strike. And God knows the lightning will strike. And it will hurt. And it will leave you scarred and broken. So don’t even look He says. Guard your mind and heart and body. Give it only to the one you’ve pledged your life to because the alternative is crushing.

Then the eighth, “You shall not steal.” With God over everything, there’s no need to take from another. He is the provider. So stealing is not just a sin against a brother, it’s a lack of trust in the Almighty and a pitfall to much worse. Like pride for example. By taking what rightfully belongs to someone else we place ourselves in the seat of God. For if all things are His, is it not His right to determine who they belong to?

Therefore, the eight commandment is not just a protection of property but a protection against pride. Against falling into a pit so deep we’re not sure which way is up. Only a good God would give us such a parameter. (Offering us our fourth piece of evidence.)

But what about the ninth, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Does it declare God’s goodness too? When viewed in light of what it protects, which is truth, relationships and integrity, His goodness regarding the ninth commandment cannot be denied. In reality, it’s a protection against falling prey to the father of lies (John 8:44). It’s a push to live in step with a God who is truth (John 14:6). (Our fifth piece of evidence.)

Then we come to the tenth. “You shall not covet.” Do you know what this really is? It’s the secret to a happy life. Stuff does not bring joy. It does not lead to satisfaction; it leads to emptiness. But “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). To be content with what you have is to possess a peaceful heart. And could there be any greater earthly possession? (Other than the certainty of eternal life of course.)

And you know, God didn’t have to share that secret with us. But He did. Giving us our sixth piece of evidence today that God is indeed good.

As a loving parent does, God set the rules, though he knew we’d break them.  He knew we’d fall short. But instead of punishing us as we deserve, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment for us. To bear the iniquity that is ours. And that my friend is our seventh piece of evidence. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8) And there is no greater evidence of His goodness than that.

A goodness independent of my circumstances. Independent of my good days and bad. Unchanging in nature. Unyielding. A goodness able to soften even the hardest of hearts. Indeed, God is good my friend. Indeed, He is good.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
How do you generally view God’s commands, as parameters with a purpose, or as a bunch of rules that zap all the fun out of life?
Do you truly believe God is good all the time? Why or why not?

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5 Reasons You May Not Have Thought of to Discipline Your Child

Parenting is HARD. There’s no clocking out. There’s no “I’m tired of this job. I think I’ll look for a new one.” There’s not even sick days for cryin’ out loud. It’s all day, every day. Holidays. Breaks. Nights Weekends. It’s tiring. So believe me, I get it. I can barely make it into bed at night. Which translates to not washing my face. Which means eventually my skin is going to look like something along the lines of an elephant’s ankle. (It’s a good thing God made me a writer.)


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 20:12
Key Verse: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12


And you better believe I will blame my children! (Do you see these wrinkles? You put them there!) (Just kidding.) (Maybe.)

But tiredness is not a Biblically mandated excuse for not doing my job as a parent. Actually, there are no excuses. “Children obey your parents” – the fifth commandment – yeah, it’s on us.

(Side note: If you’re just joining us we’ve been making our way through the book of Exodus and we’re currently in chapter 20 – The Ten Commandments. Click HERE if you’d like to go back and start with the first commandment. Or click HERE if you are in need of a laugh and would like to read my take on motherhood. Or click HERE if you’d like to subscribe and never miss another Deeper Devo. I don’t promise all fun, all the time. But I do promise honesty and truth and a deeper look at the Scriptures. Or feel free to ignore me, and just keep reading. I ignore me all the time.)

Anyway, my job as a parent isn’t to make my children happy. It’s not even to successfully get them through another day. (Though I do see that as a nice byproduct.) No, my job as a parent is to raise responsible God-fearing adults.

And the bottom line is, they aren’t going to get there on their own. For some reason we’ll go through great pains to train a puppy but our kids? Eh, they’ll catch on eventually. (No they won’t.) We have to teach them to do so. We have to, dare I say it, discipline. There, I said it.

And here, my friend, are five reasons to motivate us to do so…           

  1. It shows them love.

I know it sounds like the opposite of love, but discipline is a facet love. Which is why God says he disciplines those whom He loves (His children).

Proverbs 13:24 “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

Proverbs 3:11-12 “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”

So to NOT discipline my children is to NOT love them to the best of my ability. I do them a disservice every time they do wrong and I choose to ignore it.

Proverbs 29:15 “The rod and reproof gives wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”

To discipline (in an appropriate and loving manner mind you) is to teach them the way to life, but to not discipline is to put them on a path of futility.

Proverbs 12:1 “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” (Sometimes the Bible just says it like it is.)

  1. You will gain their respect.

I respect those who say they’re going to do something and then do it. And you know what, it’s the same with our kids. When we follow through with expectations – it harbors respect in their hearts.

Hebrews 12:9 “Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?”

But when we don’t follow through. When we lack consistency. When we lay the boundaries out and they choose to cross them, yet no consequences follow, they may be relieved in the moment but with time, respect will wane because we didn’t mean what we said.

Proverbs 29:17 “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to you heart.” Because his/her respect will run deep.

  1. It shows them the Father.

Hebrews 12:6 “For the Lord disciples the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

If God disciplines those he loves because they are his sons and daughters, yet we don’t discipline our children, what does that teach them? Honestly, I’m afraid to answer. But I know one thing, it certainly doesn’t mimic the LORD.

God is not mean. We’re not to be mean. God is love and in his goodness, corrects (when necessary) with discipline. Not to get back at us. Not to make us sad but for the purpose of keeping us on a path that will give us the best life possible. And don’t we want the same for our kids?

  1. It reveals the Father in them.

Hebrews 12:10 says God disciplines us for our good, “that we may share his holiness.”

Discipline is character training.

Proverbs 23:13-14 (NLT) says, “Don’t fail to discipline your children. The rod of punishment won’t kill them. Physical discipline may well save them from death.”

Because left to ourselves we won’t walk in the light, as God is in the light. We’ll walk in the ways of darkness. A path I don’t want for my children!

Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.”

It’s not natural for our kids to do what’s right. In fact, it’s not natural for any of us. (“The heart is deceitful above all things.” – Jeremiah 17:9) Which is why over and over in Scripture we’re instructed to “Abide in Him.” “Take every thought captive.” “Flee from evil.” If the Apostle Paul struggled to do what is right and not wrong, how much more will our kids?

So we discipline, that they too might be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1).

  1. In the end, it will bring them joy.

We all want our kids to be happy right? We want what’s best for them. But what’s best for them is what’s best for us – living within God’s parameters. Not so we’ll be confined, but so we’ll thrive!

Proverbs 6:23 “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.”

And the way of life, leads to blessing!

Psalm 94:12 “Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and who you teach out of your law.”

Job 5:17 “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.”

The word blessed means happy. Why is the person who is disciplined happy? Because discipline leads to righteousness, which leads to blessing, which leads to joy. And oh my do I want my kids to be happy!

As you ponder these truths remember this – “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)

It may seem hard now, but here’s the promise. Later, it will yield fruit of righteousness. And that my friend, is enough reason for me.

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The Sanctity of Sunday: Does It Really Matter?

If you want to push my buttons, and I mean really push my buttons, then all you have to do is tell me all soccer games will be played Sunday afternoons (which I’m not too excited about anyway). And then go and schedule a game for 10:15 on a Sunday morning. My fuse will light faster than a torch in a hay loft.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 20:8-11
Key Verse: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8


Because excuse me, there are still people in this world who GO TO CHURCH. Which is exactly what I told our local soccer club in the nicest but most straight forward way I could; with smoke blowing out my ears and all engines on red.

Sadly, in a society rapidly straying from God, Sunday is no longer a day set aside for rest and worship, but merely the second day of an already too short weekend.

But God (two of my favorite words by the way) didn’t set the pattern of six days of work and one day of rest just for kicks and giggles. He intended it as a gift. A gift I’m afraid we’ve gone and shoved back in His face. (Present company included.)

He mandated the idea with Israel through the fourth commandment. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gate” (Ex. 20:8-10).

Then the LORD goes on to say why he’s giving such a command. “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Ex. 20:11).

In other words, here’s the pattern, now follow my example. Not just because it was best for their bodies to take a break and have a breather. But by doing so it identified the Israelites with the true Creator of heaven and earth, the LORD God Almighty.

This was His story. He’d made the earth and heavens and all that is within them in six days and rested on the seventh. Therefore, His people were to do the same that the world might know the Israelites didn’t depend on Ra the sun god, or Baal or Asherah, or any other false Canaanite god they’d be introduced to in the years to come but in the LORD God. The one who created everything in six days and rested on the seventh.

It was about identity.

And boy was God serious about this. Just before handing Moses the tablets of stone with the law written on them, God says to him, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths…Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death.’” (Ex. 31:13-14).

Above all else, God said, they were to keep the Sabbaths holy. Now that’s saying something. I probably would have chosen a different commandment to highlight. Like the first one. “Above all else…you shall have no other gods before me.”

But God knew their obedience to the other commandments hinged on this one. If they kept the Sabbath they would serve Him above all other gods. If they kept the Sabbath they would serve Him in the right way. If they kept the Sabbath they would be careful to respect His name. They would teach their children accordingly and they would strive to love their neighbors as themselves.

It all hinged here, with the Sabbath. Because it’s with the Sabbath they remembered who they were and who God was and what He had done for them. And remembering is the catalyst to obedience.

Deuteronomy 5:15 says, “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”

The pendulum of their commitment to God hung right here with whether or not they kept the Sabbath.

“Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever” (Ex. 31:16).

Yet Israel didn’t keep the Sabbath. And so they didn’t remember and chose instead to identify themselves with Baal and Asherah and other false gods. Ultimately, there worship went elsewhere.

Now we could sit and argue about whether or not as Christians today we’re still mandated to keep the Sabbath by way of the LORD’s day, Sunday, the day Christ arose from the dead. We could agree to disagree about what kinds of things we should or should not do on Sundays. We could look down our noses on those who work or do things we don’t agree with.

Or we could set aside the arguments of what and when and how and consider the why. Why God gave it to Israel in the first place. Recognizing it was for their good and His glory. It was so they’d remember and identify themselves with Him.

And then maybe we’d realize setting aside Sunday as the LORD’s day does the same thing for us. Going to church every week isn’t just for kicks and giggles. Setting that time aside, making it a priority no matter what else arises, marks me as a Christian. It’s an initial step in identifying myself as a Christ follower.

Secondly, making Sunday different than the other days of my week, gives me a weekly reminder of who I serve. The LORD God is His name. It’s Him I trust. It’s He who’s redeemed me. And if I make it a priority to remember such things on a weekly basis, surrounding myself with the body of Christ, the church, I’ll be less likely to wander.

It’s for my protection and it’s for God’s glory. And it’s a gift. A time to rest and take a breather. But Hebrews 4 gives believers an additional reason to celebrate the LORD’s day, setting it aside as holy. It’s a picture for us (and the rest of the world) of ceasing from working for one’s salvation and instead by faith trusting in Christ.

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his” (Heb. 4:9-10). Could there be any better reason?

Yet if we don’t heed one day a week as God’s day, if we don’t make the day any different, if we don’t set it aside, then what kind of picture are we painting? One in which we don’t need God? One in which we need to work, instead of trust? One in which worshiping God is optional?

I don’t think it’s just a happen so that as our country has scooted further and further from the sanctity of Sunday, it’s scooted further and further from God.

He is the LORD and there is no other my friend. And setting Sunday aside is one way we identify with Him.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Do you set aside one day a week to rest and remember? How so?
Why above all else, do you think this commandment was so important for the Israelites to follow? What does that mean for us?

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The Most Accepted Sin of Our Society

Have you ever wanted to speak truth, but were afraid if you did, you’d be left with no friends in the room? That’s where I’m at today. Hands filled to the brim with truth, but unable to form the words because well…I like having friends.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 20:7
Key Verse: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” Exodus 20:7


But by God’s grace, at this stage in the race, I care more about pleasing my heavenly Father than invites to parties. At least most days. It also might help that I’m an introvert and enjoy sitting on my couch, so I’ve pressed on.

But truth be told, it’s taken me two weeks to write this devotional and it’s over one verse. Which verse has me so tied up in knots I’m concerned about losing friends you ask? The third commandment.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” Exodus 20:7

And there it is. Straight forward. Simple. Yet, we are. God’s name is being vainly proclaimed with a vengeance. Whether the commandment has simply been forgotten, misunderstood, or intentionally set aside, I’m not sure. But it’s a blatant problem.

We could otherwise state the commandment as, don’t use God’s name in an empty way, void of who He is, without reverence, without meaning, without purpose.

You can pick the situation – they all fit. Whether in the court of law or by way of promise (I swear by all that is holy…) or in the backyard, or on the couch, or in a church pew when our mouth is singing one thing and our mind is somewhere else, it doesn’t matter. God says here – don’t take my name in vain.

But there it is every time I turn the TV on or peruse social media or go out in public. It’s even been given its own abbreviation – OMG. And it’s wrong. To toss God’s name about as though it’s nothing more than an empty expression of disbelief, we might as well go bury our Bible’s in the mud. Because that’s basically what we’re doing – tossing God’s character to the wayside.

You see His name is more than just a name. It describes who He is, embracing the holiness of His character. In Exodus 34 when God proclaims His name to Moses he doesn’t just use one word. He uses a description. “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but will by no means clear the guilty” (v. 6-7).

And since there is only one true and living God this is whom we’re addressing when we flippantly type OMG in a text or a Facebook response. This is who we’re dragging through the mud. (Forgive us Father.) In fact, we’ve gotten so lax we’ll watch television shows that abuse it relentlessly and still call it the best show of the season with the argument that we weren’t the one actually saying it. But so what if we didn’t say it, didn’t it just get piped into our homes at volume thirty-three? And we took it, without even a flinch.

It’s interesting though, because the third commandment does not keep us from using God’s name at all. It simply says not to use it empty. In fact, we’re to use God’s name in many ways, just not without reverent purpose.

We’re to praise the name of the LORD all day long. (Ps. 148:3) “For his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven” (Ps. 148:13).

We’re to bless the name of the LORD. (Ps. 113:2)

We’re to call on the name of the LORD when we need help. (Ps. 116:4)

We’re to fight evil in the name of the LORD. (Ps. 118:10)

We’re to give thanks in the name of the LORD. (Ps. 122:4)

Not to mention, we’re to baptize in the name of the LORD. Proclaim the name of the LORD in word and deed and speech. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17). And trust in the name of the LORD (Ps. 20:7). For “the name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Prov. 18:10).

It’s a gracious God to give us the use of His name! Christ even said we can ask things of God, in his name! (John 14:13-14) Um, that’s A-mazing.

But.

Just don’t do it in an empty way, says the LORD, without reverent measure for what you’re saying. For, “Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness” (Ps. 145:3, NLT).

No one. It’s beyond comprehension. So value me, says God. Hold my name in high esteem and use it accordingly. Otherwise, and here is the warning, beware, “for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Ex. 20:7b).

Our words have consequences. In Matthew 12:36 Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” Every careless word, including the use of His name.

For there is no other name by which we can be saved! (Acts 4:12) But now I’m really going to meddle. (Please still invite me over for dinner.)

Did you know gosh is a euphemism for God? It’s not just a nice little substitute. The word origin of gosh is God. But there’s more. Do you know what a euphemism is? Yeah, I didn’t either. So I did what all good researchers do, I googled it. And found out a euphemism is “a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.”

And then I melted ten feet into the floor. (Guilty.) Is God unpleasant or embarrassing? Or is the use of his name unpleasant? It is a strong tower! The name of our God is wonderful! The name of our God is to be praised!

Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory!” (Ps. 72:19)

And may His name be spoken with the worth He deserves.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Does it bother you to hear God’s name taken in vain?
As a believer, what parameters have you put in place to help you uphold the name of the LORD?
On the flip-side, what allowances have you made regarding the third commandment? Are there changes you need to make?

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