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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Why The Passover Is As Much Our Backstory As It Was Theirs

Besides parenting and folding a fitted bed sheet and feeding six people breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, writing has been one of the most challenging things I’ve put my mind to. Sharing details in a succinct manner is not easy. Each new story is like sewing a patchwork quilt. Turning squares this way and that; removing one and replacing it with another; until it looks just right in hopes of producing a “Wow, how lovely,” or “That’s incredible,” or a very special “I need another look,” from anyone who encounters it.

Devotional Scripture: Exodus 11 – 12:7, 13
Key Verse: “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” 1 Corinthians 5:7b

The problem is, there’s always leftover squares. Details you wanted to include but for the sake of impact and purpose and a story your reader can easily follow, they had to be left out. And let me just tell you, choosing which details stay and which go, is like trying to decide which child gets on the plane with you and which one stays behind. It’s excruciating my friend.

Sometimes an author might add a bonus chapter at the end, filled with all the favorites that just wouldn’t fit in chapter five. Or other times after taking several chapters to lead the reader where they want, the author may pause to tell the backstory, adding in elements that didn’t fit elsewhere.

Which is exactly what Moses does for us in Exodus 11 and 12. After weaving the sovereignty of God through nine plagues, over four chapters, he pauses to give us some backstory.

Verses one and two of chapter eleven filling us in on a conversation Moses likely had with the LORD during the dark hours of the ninth plague where the LORD informs him, “You’re almost done. There’s just one to go.” Allowing Moses to respond with “Fine, no problem,” when Pharaoh says to him after the three days of pitch darkness, “Take care never to see my face again” (10:28).

But before Moses walks out leaving Pharaoh in the dust forever, chapter eleven gives us the rest of the story. Verses 4-9 a continuation of Moses and Pharaoh’s final conversation, we learn Moses gave Pharaoh one final warning. “Thus says the LORD: About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die” (11:4-5a).

Midnight! Yikes! Things were happening quickly, wouldn’t you say? Now it’s possible Moses meant midnight tomorrow or midnight in a few days, but it doesn’t say that. The text just says midnight. Leading me to believe there’s mere hours until the grievous final blow against the gods of Egypt.

Which in turn, means Israel was just mere hours from Passover. When the LORD would pass over Israel, instead of striking them with the same deadly plague, as long as the Hebrew household was covered by the blood of the lamb.  (There’s so much symbolism here, I’m giddy!)

But this wasn’t something God sprung on the people the morning before. According to chapter 12 (the backstory), God had been instructing for a few days now and Israel had been preparing. Selecting their male lamb (a year old, without blemish) four days prior to Passover. Separating it from the flock, they checked it over to be sure there were no blemishes. Many probably brought it indoors for those four days, keeping it close, making the sacrifice that much harder. (Think any kiddos grew attached to little lamby?)

Then at twilight on day fourteen, they killed it. At which time they were to use hyssop to place the blood of the lamb on the two doorposts and lintel leading into their homes. Then they were to roast the lamb and eat until it was gone. Any leftovers had to be burned.

When the LORD came that night to Egypt, the blood of the lamb on the doorposts, showed propitiation had been made for the household. Because they weren’t exempt. Ezekiel 20 explains how the Israelites weren’t any better than the Egyptians. They too worshiped idols and whored after false gods (Joshua 24:14). They too were unrighteous and deserving of death, just as we all are. “As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10).

But God, for the sake of his glory before the nations and the fulfillment of his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saved them anyway. Yet he couldn’t just ignore their sin. Payment needed to be made, “for the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Thus, God enacted the principle of substitution. In place of the firstborn, was the innocent blood of the lamb.

A backstory we should be well familiar with because we’ve got the same one. I smile not because my day is perfect, but because my Savior is. I have hope not because I’m any good, but because my Savior is. “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7b).

Hebrews 9:22 makes it clear, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.” Therefore, Christ’s blood was shed in our place. That first Passover and the day of Christ’s crucifixion, the blood was a propitiation (an appeasement) of the wrath of God. It’s not that the penalty for our sins was nullified; it’s that the penalty for our sins has been paid. “We have now been justified by his blood” (Romans 5:9).

Not because we deserve it, but that God might be glorified. That those who hear and believe may praise His Holy Name. Along with the angels, in awe of His willingness to die for a wretched people like us.

On that dreadful night in Egypt, when the LORD passed over, it didn’t matter who was in the Israelite home. It didn’t matter if they had a sketchy past or were a strange mix of people. It didn’t matter if they’d messed up yesterday or the day before that. It didn’t matter if they’d struggled and failed yet again to conquer a particular sin. The only thing that mattered, was the covering of the blood of the lamb.

My friend, it’s not going to church that saves us. It’s not being good. It’s not giving to the poor or walking the straight and narrow. What saves us is the covering of the blood of our Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ. It’s the backstory of every believer and it’s always, every day, one hundred percent, perfectly sufficient.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Are you covered by the blood of Lamb? Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
If this is your backstory, praise the LORD! Thank Him for his grace and mercy extended to you. And share it! Give someone the extended version today, with all the added details, as to why you smile and why you have hope.

Thanks for studying with me!

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Truths to Dwell in on Election Day

If there’s an emotion I struggle with most, it’s anxiety. That all too familiar feeling of uneasiness that wraps itself like a noose around my heart when I linger too long on the I-have-no-control-over-this-issues or the how-is-this-going-to-work-out scenarios or the what-if possibilities or the I-can’t-help-but-worry situations.  

And once I let it take hold, it’s hard to shake. Anxiety has a strong grip. Refusing to leave me alone, even in the most mundane tasks – following me from room to room while I put away toys and pick up clothes and throw away diapers I should have tossed in the diaper champ three days ago. (Just keepin’ it real.)

Tired of giving uneasiness a free ride, I take deep breaths – pausing to see if it’s better with each exhale. It’s not.

I’ve found only one way to loosen the grip of anxiety — grip harder to the word of God. And I mean tight. With an earnest effort. The kind that might be deemed excessive.

Isaiah 26:3 declares, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Perfect peace doesn’t come with a long run or a warm bath – it comes with a mind fiercely fixed on Christ.  

A mind willing to take every thought and doubt and question and shove it deep into the heart of Scripture. Again and again and again.

This. This is my approach as tomorrow turns into today and Americans vote not just on the next President of the United States but on my future and my kids future and our rights as Christians and my future freedoms or lack thereof.

It’s enough to make my insides simmer. The power that’s at stake – the supreme court judges that will be appointed to either uphold Biblical standards or spit on them. The knowing that above all else I will choose God and be a champion of His word no matter what it might cost me.

I don’t like. I really really don’t like it.

But there’s only one way and that’s straight through it. So I’ll tackle the apprehensions climbing up my throat with God’s Word diligently pouring through my mind. Anchoring me to the one ultimately in control. And I’ll do it with these four truths and the Scriptures that back them.

1. God is sovereign.
The presidency is not determined by us, it’s decided by God.

A friend kindly reminded me the other day that God is not sitting up in heaven nervously hoping enough Christians vote. He knew long ago who would be named President in 2016.

Jeremiah 27:5 says, “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me.”

And again…
“I will appointment the leader of my choice. For who is like me, and who can challenge me? What ruler can oppose my will?” (Jeremiah 49:19b, NLT)

Whether it be for the rod or revival it’s God who allows the scepter to slide from one man’s hand to another (or woman for that matter). We may be surprised, but God never is.

“The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has sworn this oath: “It will all happen as I have planned. It will be as I have decided.” (Isaiah 14:24, NLT)

Yet God says to the righteous, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)  Thank you Jesus.

2. Christ is King.
No matter who sits in the Oval Office, Christ sits on the throne of Heaven.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: The LORD is our righteousness.” Jeremiah 23:5-6

“And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:14

“On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” Rev. 19:16

3. Truth will prevail.
I can’t stand lies. Yet for months the news has been brainwashing us with them, many have been led astray to believe them, and Satan (the father of lies) has been hard at work to uphold them.

But the Word of God is truth (Jn. 17:17) and it will not pass away. It will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8). It may be shoved aside for now. It may be forgotten. It may be torn apart by people who make it say whatever they want it to, but ultimately it will prevail! And be upheld! And be the standard by which Christ rules.

For He is truth (John 14:6). And speaks only truth (Isaiah 45:19). “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” (Psalm 119:160)

Those who live by the TRUTH will be rewarded with eternal life, “but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom. 2:8).

In the end, truth wins.

4. Those who fear God will be blessing.
It may not look like blessing. It may be harder than we ever anticipated. But there is blessing in store for the Christ follower who fears God enough to wholeheartedly obey him. Especially in the midst of a society that doesn’t.

“Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” Proverbs 28:14

“Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments….He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.” (Ps. 112: 1,7)

Not afraid of bad news…

If you need me in the next few days, I’ll be right here smack dab in the middle of these truths. Will you?