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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