Posts tagged ‘Exodus’

February 27, 2015

Wasted Years

by Steven Dilla

Exodus 10.3-4
Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? … For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country.’”

A swarm of locusts is like a stock market crash in an agrarian society. Locusts descend in an instant, destroying wealth over the longterm and sending the economy into what could be a sustained downturn.

The devastation from just one attack can raze swaths of land. The largest locust swarm on record covered 198,000 square miles (17% larger than the state of California) and contained 12.5 trillion insects.

Longterm destruction from locusts is referred to as “wasted years” in scripture. Months of preparing, planting, and cultivating are laid waste in a moment. The plague in Exodus is seen as a direct result of Pharaoh’s hard heartedness, as well as an attack on the Egyptian god Isis, who was believed to protect them from such plagues. 

For Israel, who faced their own locust attacks, locust swarms were believed to be tangible reminders of the devastation caused by a nation’s sin. Years were lost because of their disobedience, brokenness, and rebellion.

God’s character is revealed in how he responds to wasted years. If he were spiteful his response would be callous — a cosmic, “I told you so.” If he were overbearing he would make them worse. 

God is graceful. 

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,” God promises through the prophet Joel.  It’s a promise that requires divine intervention — for what man can restore what is lost in his darkest hour? 

“It is a great wonder; but he is a God of wonders, and in the kingdom of his grace miracles are common things,” Charles Spurgeon told his London congregation in 1886.

In some ways the joy, hope, and renewal found in Christ result in a restoration here and now. Faith in Christ results in a tangible change to the way we engage in the world. In other ways we await the full restoration of all that has been lost. For then our tears will be wiped away, our pain relieved, our brokenness restored, our hearts made whole again.

Prayer
Father, thank you for restoring us through the cross. Thank you that, by grace, you do what we cannot. You bring us life. You restore what sin and brokenness have laid waste. We look to you; we long for you; come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Joy in God
Part 5 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

Today’s Readings
Exodus 10 (Listen – 4:44)
Luke 13 (Listen – 5:02)

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This Weekend’s Readings

Saturday: Exodus 11.1-12.21 (Listen – 4:04); Luke 14 (Listen – 4:36)
Sunday: Exodus 11.1-12.21 (Listen – 5:44); Luke 15 (Listen – 4:19)

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February 26, 2015

TBT: Learning Contentment

by Steven Dilla

Luke 12.15
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

TBT: Learning Contentment | by Thomas Jacombe (1622–1687)  

Discontentment lodges not only in the soul of those who have nothing, but of those who have abundance: both are dissatisfied with their condition, as thinking they have not enough, and therefore are full of anxious desires for more. 

Had you all that you desire, you would be dissatisfied still; for your desires would grow as fast as your riches: yet more must be had, and that is the bane of satisfaction.

If God gives Christians what is necessary, they are not to quarrel for the want of what is superfluous. What are these earthly riches, that any should be thus insatiably greedy of them? Men may fill their bags and chests with silver and gold, but they cannot with them fill their souls: no, the soul is a thing too great to be filled with such little things as these are.

Consider why the love of the world is inconsistent with the love of God. The poison and evil of these things comes not from the things themselves, but from our lusts, that run into and live upon them, as our last end and choicest good. God never made or appointed these inferior goods to be our last end, chiefest good, or matter of fruition and satisfaction.

They who ran in the race, were to lay aside every thing that might burden or hinder them therein. To love God is to transfer the actions and passions of our love from the world to God, as our last end and chiefest good. In short, the love of God implies a superlative preference of God above all lower goods.

Prayers from the Past

Let us pray that Jesus may reign over us and that our land may be at peace — that our bodies may be free from the assaults of fleshly desires. When these have ceased, we shall be able to rest, beneath our vines, our fig-trees and our olives.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will shelter us as we rest, our peace of mind and body once recovered.

Glory to God the eternal, age after age. Amen.

— Origen, c.250 C.E.

Joy in God
Part 4 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

Today’s Readings
Exodus 9 (Listen – 5:31)
Luke 12 (Listen – 7:42)

Today’s post was abridged, and updated in language, from Nichols, J. (1981). Puritan Sermons (Vol. 1, pp. 647-653). Wheaton, IL: Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers.

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February 25, 2015

Repenting of Greatness

by Steven Dilla

Luke 11.2
And Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, holy is your name.”

The crown was the chief symbol of accomplishment and success in Jewish literature. Most crowns were made of solid gold or silver and embellished with precious jewels. A single crown would have been worth more than everything the average person in the ancient Near East owned in a lifetime.

The additional social value of such a prize would have been incalculable, but it was the spiritual value which sealed the crown as the preeminent symbol of success. In prophetic texts, even as late as the composition of the book of Revelation, the crown is the symbol for a life well lived.

The image of the 24 elders receiving their crowns in Revelation was a source of renewed hope for the faithful. The elders had done everything needed to receive the crown — it was their greatest accomplishment. For all of eternity their crowns would signify that they had done well. 

It would seem scandalous that the elders would walk into the presence of God and cast down their crowns (as they do in Revelation 4.10-11). As they throw aside their prize they declare, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power.”

The elders do not throw off their crowns out of guilt. The story is about their reward for accomplishment, not rebuke for it. The elders throw them off because they have found the true holiness of God. It’s a worthiness so high we repent not just of our sin, but of our strength, success, and accomplishment. 

The Lord’s Prayer is meant to remind us of his holiness. In prayer we discover purified motivation for success and accomplishment. We also find our hearts less enamored by success along the way, as we place our ultimate hope in the unsurpassable holiness of God.

God reserves crowns for the faithful, but the true prize is the inexpressible beauty and glory of reuniting with our Father in heaven.

Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Joy in God
Part 3 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

Today’s Readings
Exodus 8 (Listen – 5:07)
Luke 11 (Listen – 7:33)

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February 24, 2015

What The Plagues Really Destroyed

by Steven Dilla

Exodus 7.14
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go.”

It is the job of the Holy Spirit to dismantle everything that we trust more than God. Anything less would be unloving, if God is as good as the scriptures reveal him to be. The Egyptian plagues attest to this.

The Nile was Egypt’s most valuable natural resource. The ancients would have trembled when it turned to blood in the first plague. Hapi, the father of Egypt’s gods (and god of the Nile itself), would seem to have lost control. 

Each plague systematically defeated another of ancient Egypt’s gods. The idols’ lack of control was exposed. Their efficacy to restore life was unveiled. 

The gods Heka, Geb, and Khepfi were shamed by the plagues involving insects. Apis, Menvis, and Hathor were defeated by the plague of livestock. Thoth, the god of health, proved powerless while Egypt writhed in the pain of boils. Nut and Isis were revealed as impotent through the plagues of hail and locusts.

The plague of darkness was a fierce warning — Yahweh had overpowered Ra. Arguably at the top of Egypt’s gods, Ra was the god of the sun and a central figure in ancient Egyptian worship. 

Even then, Pharaoh would not concede.

The final plague was an extension of the previous — a darker darkness. Each of Egypt’s firstborn would have been dedicated to Ra, and Pharaoh’s son was considered an incarnation of Ra himself. The death of the firstborn was a brutal and crushing end to the empty gods in whom they had placed their trust.

Idolatry always destroys our greatest joy. Our commitment to our idols cuts away at the people and things which matter most in our lives. Each idol delivers a shadow of the real experience — and their falsehood can be as difficult for us to see now as it was for the Egyptians to see then.

In comparison to Egypt’s gods, our modern idols have names which sound normal — approval, pleasure, comfort, power, control — but they act the same. We draw our identity from them. We arrange our lives around them. And, at our time of greatest need, they abandon us.

Prayer
Spirit of God, dismantle our idols so our joy may be complete in Christ. Reveal in us the things which we trust more than God — the things which will destroy us. Renew us in the gospel and fill us with your peace.

Joy in God
Part 2 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

Today’s Readings
Exodus 7 (Listen – 3:29)
Luke 10 (Listen – 5:40)

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February 23, 2015

Suffering and Glory

by Steven Dilla

Luke 9.23-24
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

The realities of suffering for faith seem top of mind right now. It’s something Christians focus on as the season of Lent begins during this time of year. Our awareness seems sharper however, with the preceding weeks’ coverage of the martyrdom of nearly two dozen Coptic Christians. Prior to that Kayla Mueller’s letter to her family was released after her murder by the terrorist group ISIS.

Mueller gave herself not just in death, but in life. “This really is my life’s work, to go where there is suffering,” she said before devoting her life and work to Syrian refugees. This is the case with many of the missionaries and aid workers who ISIS has abducted. It was their faith which led them to put aside comfort, money, status, and likely a list of worldly hopes to serve the marginalized and oppressed. 

The martyrs’ final moments of suffering are public. Their long-suffering journey in faith is private. In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was later executed in a Nazi concentration camp, says,

“Time is short. Eternity is long. It is the time of decision. Those who are true to the word and confession on earth will find Jesus Christ standing by their side in the hour of judgement. All the world will be called to witness as Jesus pronounces our name before his heavenly Father.”

We should focus on the beauty of the prize set before us, not the pain of sacrifice, during this season of Lent. 

“The hope of our reunion is the source of my strength,” Mueller wrote to her family and friends. It’s a hope which will go unfulfilled in this world. Yet she is not without greater reward. The glory of resurrection will bring not only the reunion she longed for, but an eternal reunion with her Heavenly Father whose glory vastly outweighs suffering on behalf of his name.

Prayer
Father God, we hold fast to your promise that you will return to vanquish evil, rebuke death, restore the broken, and fulfill every desire. Reorient us to see our sufferings not as crushing burdens but as light and momentary when measured against your eternal Kingdom. Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

(Prayer adapted from Revelation 21.1-5; John 10.10; 2 Corinthians 4.16-18; Revelation 22.20)

Joy in God
Part 1 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

Today’s Readings
Exodus 6 (Listen – 3:56)
Luke 9 (Listen – 8:05)

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