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?