Exodus 20: A Jealous God

I like rules. I’m a black and white kind of person. Rules bring boundaries and define something to be right and something to be wrong. Simple. Yet I still find myself often balking at rules and trying to push boundaries.

When we see something as just black and white or just rules and boundaries, we may not be looking beneath the surface to the “why”.

In amongst the ‘shall not’s in Exodus 20, verse 4 reads, “…for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…”

Instantly we venture from “black and white” to depths and insight and God continuing to introduce Himself to His people. God isn’t putting the rules in place because he gets fulfillment from seeing His people struggle. The culture that the Israelites knew was not leading them on a path toward God. These commandments seem to be the beginning of God setting His people apart from the rest of the world.

As we are in the middle of Lent, most of us have set boundaries for ourselves to keep us from something. My ‘shall not’ includes my weekly cinnamon bun and other sweets. I try to keep my mind on the “why” instead of what counts and what doesn’t count as something sweet. And in the denial of my comfort, a little more room is made each day for the One who brought us freedom.

God wants our attention.

He is jealous for us.

— Stephanie

Application questions

When you’re tempted to push the boundaries, what are some things that could remind you of the “why”?

What are those things in your life that God could be jealous of?

Exodus 19: Remember Who You’re Talking To

In this chapter, Moses and the Israelites arrive at Mount Sinai, where God presents His covenant; and appears before them. God’s descent on the mountain is described in verses 16 to 18 – “On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled. Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a brick kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently.”

Wow! There cannot be a more grand, slightly intimidating, yet splendid description than this of God appearing before humankind. I don’t know about you, but just as the Israelites, I too would be trembling at that sight. Not out of fear, but out of an overwhelming astonishment to be in His presence. Often when I think of God, I think of His relational side; His approachable, I’m-gonna-love-you-no-matter-what-and-fix-all-your-problems side. But reading these verses reminded me of how much more God is – He’s all-powerful; He’s a king!

The Israelites were given three days to prepare themselves to meet God and it made me think of my process. When it comes to spending time with Him, I feel that I’m always in a rush or I’m not 100% focused. I casually come before Him and immediately begin asking away for His help, to fix something or someone and I totally disregard who exactly it is that I’m talking to. But reading this chapter was humbling – it put into perspective of God’s amazing power and sovereignty and of how BIG He really is. It reminded me that in drawing near to God, we must never forget His holiness, His greatness, or His grandeur. After all, this God that came to meet the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai had previously set them free from oppression in Egypt and parted the Red Sea; is the same God that came down to this world, to free us from sin so that we can worship and be with Him forever. 

— Michelle B.

Exodus 18: Get A Crew

Moses is perhaps the greatest leader history has ever seen (other than Jesus of course). I mean, the guy led a revolution that liberated an entire nation from slavery; He remained steadfast against the most powerful man on planet earth and he rallied hundreds of thousands of people together to pursue a cause that could have gotten them all killed. 

But even Moses with his audacious vision and spectacular achievements had a breaking point and we read about it in chapter 18. 

As we pick up the story, we see Moses’ role change from freedom-fighter to pastor. His calling shifts from rescuing the people of Israel to shepherding them through everyday life. 

As he transitions into his new identity he finds himself fatigued and overwhelmed. In fact, Moses was so burdened and worn out that other people around him begin to notice. His father-in-law Jethro was one of those people. As Jethro examined the countenance of Moses, he saw the unrest of his soul and lovingly confronted him about it. 

Jethro says to Moses “what you are doing is not good”…”you are not able to do it alone”

Their conversation was simple yet profound and in that moment everything changed for Moses. 

This short conversation was the catalyst that set Moses on the journey of surrounding himself with people who would support him, encourage him, and carry the burden of life with him. This moment was the wakeup call Moses needed to realize that he couldn’t do life on his own. He finally understood that if he were to continuing living his life on his own he would soon fall under the weight of the world. 

Moses, as amazing as he was, did not have the capacity to live and lead alone. He needed friends, family and community to truly experience all that God had for him.

For followers of Jesus today Jethro’s words still ring true, “you are not able to do this alone”. 

God created us to live and thrive in community. He designed us to lean on and depend on the church. When we take life into our own hands and exclude those who God has placed in our lives to walk with us and support us through the good times and also the bad, we set ourselves up for failure.

Life is hard. Difficulties are just around the corner. We can either try to struggle through life alone or we can recognize, like Moses did, that life is so much better with a crew of people that love and support us. 

— Mark

Application Questions

Moses began to surround himself with good people who genuinely loved and cared for him. Who do you have in your life right now that you can trust and depend on no matter what your season of life looks like?

For God’s plan in Moses life to be fulfilled, Moses needed to allow Jethro to speak into his life even though it was hard. Who might you need to give permission to speak into your life so that you become more like Jesus?

Moses had to begin looking and asking people to help him. Who do you have in your life who you need to be more intentional with about building a deeper and more meaningful relationship?

Sometimes we are Moses and sometimes we are the people who surrounded Moses. Who do you have in your life who needs you to be there for them right now? How can you begin to surround them to be a support and encouragement? 

Exodus 17: Being There For Each Other

As I read through Chapter 17 of the book of Exodus, what stood out to me from a life perspective were verses 8 – 16 that described the battle the Israelites had with the tribe of Amalek. Specifically, the words written in verses 11 & 12 where the writer states “So it came about when Moses held his hand up, the Israelites prevailed and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it and Aaron & Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set”. The result of this was that Joshua was able to overwhelm Amalek and his people.

This passage speaks so much to the whole concept of small groups and having people in our lives that can act as “Aaron & Hur” being there for us and allowing us to be “steady” as we go through the ups and downs of everyday living. I know in my life, I have always found it beneficial to have people that I can go to and discuss the issues that I face. It can be family members, co-workers and people that I would do community with.  They can be there to listen, provide guidance as well as hold me accountable. My prayer would be that we would all have those people in our lives that would “be there for each other.”

— Eric

Application Questions

Do you have an “Aaron and/or Hur” in your life that you can discuss the “deep” things you may be dealing with?

Are you experiencing the benefits of being in a small group?

Exodus 16: Losing Perspective

So here we are six weeks after the Israelites were saved from captivity and they are grumbling. Not just a little, but a lot. (Verse 2-“the whole community grumbled”) Enough that God felt He had to perform another act of His power to let them know He was God (vs. 6-“In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt”). The Lord had saved them from slavery; they had witnessed the plagues oppressing the Egyptians and saw their people protected time and time again. They had been living in treacherous conditions for generations, and yet just weeks later they felt like they would have been better off in Egypt than their current situation! Verse 4 –“if only we had died by the Lord’s hand In Egypt.“

It’s easy to read this and think, “Wow, those ungrateful people! How can they doubt God again?” How can they not trust that the Lord will provide for their needs? How can they lose perspective so fast? They thought they would be better off back in Egypt as slaves, oppressed and beaten? How often are we like this? We cry out for the Lord for the desires of our heart, and He grants them. Then in just a short time, we are unhappy with our situation again. We have experienced God’s provision but doubt it when the next area of need arises. 

How quickly I can forget when God provided for me and defaulted into my sense of control again. God provided Manna from Heaven because they were hungry, but some of the Israelites would not trust in the provision of the Lord nor heed his instructions and took more than enough for a day. Again within hours of having their needs met taking back control and disregarding God’s instructions.

God, of course, has the Power to do anything but how often are we waiting for another BIG sign of His provision or power before we will walk with him, move along a path in our life? The Israelites missed out on so many years of blessings the Lord wanted to give him because they kept doubting and forgot what the Lord had delivered them from, what he had promised. What was the cost of him having to do this over and over? It makes me wonder – what areas of my life am I waiting for some big sign from the Lord when He has shown me time and time again who He is and that he will provide for me. Where is my doubt and need for control costing me in experiencing the so much more God could be doing if I wasn’t wasting so much of his time having to answer the same questions over and over?

He is GOD. He will provide!

— Shelly

Application Questions

Where in your life have you lost perspective on where God has delivered you from or provided for you?

What blessings, experiences, are you missing out on because you are waiting again on some Huge sign of God’s power or provision when He has already displayed it faithfully many times?

Exodus 15: Posture of Worship

It’s crazy to think how powerful God truly is… (i.e.,. He just split a sea!!!) In Chapter 15, Moses leads the children of Israel in a song after crossing the Red Sea because—why wouldn’t you be singing and worshipping after an experience like that? They sing about God’s character, about His triumphs, and their deliverance. After, they went into the wilderness and went three days with no water. When they came to Marah, they found water, but it was bitter. Moses cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed Moses a log, which he threw in the water, and it was made sweet.

“The Lord is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
Exodus 15:2

There are so many great acts of God in Exodus, yet it seems like in our culture today we seem to forget about how powerful God truly is and who we’re devoting our lives to. We forget that we’re worshipping a King greater than all kings. Chapter 15 is the first recorded song in the Bible, and I think that it is an excellent example of how we should posture ourselves in worship. I can’t imagine the Israelites singing this song in a mundane tone, no joy, and no expression. I picture them shouting, hoot-n-hollering, and expressing their total gratitude to a God who saved them. In the same way, God saved us by sending His own Son to die on the cross! When we worship, it’s a moment we have with God. Show some expression! Declare God’s triumph! Show some gratitude to the One whom we worship! Start practicing now because we’ll be singing the same song as Moses and the Israelites in heaven, as it says in Revelation:

“I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb:

“Great and marvelous are your deeds,
    Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
    King of the nations.”
Revelation 15:1-3 (NIV)

If you need some tips on practicing a physical posture of worship, I found this photo for you 🙂

9f718962678e38d6c7e5d901e2aab385

— JR

Application Questions

Do you have a personal experience in mind where you encountered God’s deliverance? How did you feel or what was your reaction?

How is your posture of worship? Is there anything that holds you back from being an expressive worshipper?

 

 

Exodus 14: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I love the Prince of Egypt! What an incredible work of art that so beautifully represents the first chapters of Exodus. One scene that I find particularly iconic is this one, which represents what we read in Chapter 14.

The beauty of film is that it allows us to visualize what we read on a page. Is this an exact representation of what happened? Not necessarily. But it does help inspire and encourage us. It helps us begin to grasp the magnitude of God’s power, the same power we read about in Chapter 14.

So we read in Exodus 14 that the troops of Pharaoh are fast approaching and the people get scared, and to be honest, fair enough! I can say that I would have probably been freaking out. They were stuck between a rock and a hard place, almost literally. They start to panic and cry out and ask Moses, “why did you bring us here man!?” It would be easy for us to shake our heads and go, “those silly Israelites,” but chances are lots of us would be feeling the same way! After all, how would they have known that the sea would be split in two? It had never happened before!

And maybe you’re in a place right now where you feel like the Egyptians. You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Or maybe you’re not, but you can remember a time when you were. Either way, know that you are not alone! Many have gone before you and faced these same feelings of fear or frustration. Instead, allow the words that Moses speaks to the Israelites to speak to your heart,

’Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent’.” (Exodus 14:13b-14)

Remember that God delivers on his promise of salvation, even if that promise is answered in a way you might not have considered or thought possible (like a sea splitting in two perhaps?)

My prayer for you is that these words would bring comfort and joy to your soul, that in moments of fear and frustration you would remember the salvation God brings. I pray that you would see the Lord’s battle on your behalf and that you would come to Him in worship as a result of it.

— Zach

Application Questions

Is there a time in your life when you felt trapped between a rock and a hard place? Did you respond in fear and frustration like the Israelites?

How do Moses’ words speak to that situation?

How did God deliver you from that trapped place?

Exodus 13: The Long Way Home

God knows the human heart. The Israelites haven’t even left Egypt, and God already knows that they are going to forget Him. In chapter 13 we read how God establishes the Passover supper and consecration of the first-born, ritual reminders that their God is mighty to save. Rituals that God knows alone won’t keep them from forgetting. He needs them to experience Him. 430 years of suffering in Egypt and now God wants to go the long way home – just for the experience!

“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter.” v.17a

The short way didn’t allow time for the Israelites to experience God. The rituals would be followed, obstacles encountered, and God forgotten. Instead, He delivers them to the edge of the desert, establishes his presence in a pillar of cloud and fire, and invites them to experience Him in the wilderness.

The reality is that God rarely delivers us the quickest way from a difficult season or circumstance. He uses the journey to display His love, grace, and power to us so that we can experience more of Him. That doesn’t make the wilderness an easy place to be, but it does make it worthwhile.

For each of us, the situation we have or are hoping to be delivered from is different. Our wilderness experiences with God will be too. What matters is that we embrace every opportunity to experience God so that he is not forgotten in our ever-busy lives.

Remember that even as God told Moses that the final destination for his people would be good, Jesus promised the same.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

— Jay

Application Questions

Am I seeking God in my wilderness or just looking for a way out?

Is there anyone I know in a wilderness experience that I can walk alongside and seek God with?

Is what you know of God rooted in ritual alone (attend church, say grace, celebrate Christmas/Easter…) or reinforced with experience?

Exodus 12: Walking Through Doorways Causes Forgetting

I am sure you have experienced losing your keys, your sunglasses, or standing up from the dinner table to go into the kitchen to get a spoon, and almost instantly forgetting why you got up?

It happens to me often, especially, when I run upstairs at home to get something, and almost immediately after reaching the second floor this feeling of being lost comes over me. What am I here for? So aimlessly I start wandering in and out of different rooms upstairs, just to have to run downstairs, and retrace my steps to recall the reason why I ran upstairs in the first place!

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame titled a study that deals with the subject of forgetting “Walking Through Doorways Causes Forgetting” The study proves exactly that, that walking from one room to another causes us to forget things. This is somewhat related to the way our brain stores, builds and compartmentalizes memories.

As Chapter 12 unfolds, we read about the final day/evening before the Israelites are freed from slavery, and what they are supposed to do to be spared from death. Oddly enough, although they have not yet been freed, God gives them final instructions before leaving Egypt in such a way that these instructions also become a ritual; a feast to be remembered. Not only to be remembered but also reenacted. Verse 11 instructs them that even in the future “forever” when celebrating the Passover meal to wear their traveling clothes, their walking sticks, sandals, and he even tells them to eat their meal in a hurry.

In a way, He gives them a mechanism not to forget, a way to retrace their steps… Go back to the last room you were in because it will help you remember.

If I had been Moses or Aaron, I probably would have been thinking…

“Ok Lord, how about we work on departing from Egypt first!

Let’s get through tonight, do this ridiculous smear blood all over the door thing, then once we have Egypt in our review mirror we can start party planning!”

In God’s economy, it was just as important for them to remember, as it was for them to be delivered.

— Laurence

Application Questions

Have you forgotten to celebrate God’s blessings over you?

When was the last time that you simply thanked God without asking for anything?

When was that last time you sat your child on your lap and shared with them those stories in your life of times when He came through for you and your family?

Exodus 11: Undeserved Freedom

Exodus 11 is a tiny chapter of only ten verses but it’s pivotal because of how it marks the turning point for Israel — captivity to freedom — they can almost taste the milk and honey! This is the first time Moses hears these glorious words from God, “yet one plague more … afterward, he will let you go from here”. 

Pharaoh is told of the imminent death of every Egyptian firstborn, and along with Moses, we can hardly believe Pharaoh’s stubbornness. We’re told Moses leaves in “hot anger,” undoubtedly distraught that Pharaoh’s rebellion has led to this kind of tragedy. His heart must have been heavy as he realized this to be the only thing that would end the battle between these two leaders and their rival nations.

As I think about this chapter, I realize the natural tendency we have to label ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys.’ I can’t help but picture Dreamworks’ Prince of Egypt animation with Pharaoh and his menacing brow, contrasted with the gentle and innocent faces of the Israelites. Even vs. 7 seems to fit this idea when it says that “the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.” 

What I often forget, however, is that God’s favour on Israel is not conditional. Israel is every bit as incapable as Egypt at following God and doing what pleases Him. He didn’t free the Israelites because they were better people than the Egyptians. They had not earned freedom, nor could they. The only difference between the two groups is that God had made a promise to save Israel as an example of his grace. This promise that began with Abraham hundreds of years earlier continues through many more centuries of Israel’s rebellion and is ultimately fulfilled when Jesus dies and comes back to life to save us from sin.  

To His unfaithful people, God proves faithful. 

— Morgan

Application Questions

Who in your heart do you tend to label as the ‘bad guys’? How can you ask God to change your attitude towards them?

How do our lives change when we go from feeling entitled to God’s grace to believing that it’s entirely undeserved?

Page 3 of 41234