When They Ask

Scripture Focus: Exodus 12:26-27
26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. 

Reflection: When They Ask
By Erin Newton

“Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.” This anonymous quote suggests the gospel can be told through actions. It’s true—faith needs to have actions. But it fails to answer Paul’s rhetorical question, “how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

As the Hebrews prepared for the final plague, God instructed them to perform the Passover ceremony. This was an unprecedented ceremony and one that would be repeated annually. With each new year, the people would explain to the community why they celebrated. No new generation could say, “I didn’t know.”

You can always tell what is important to people by what they talk about the most. We know which friends are sports fanatics, bookworms, or cinema aficionados. If we love it, we ramble on about it. When God calls the Hebrews to teach the next generation, he’s asking for the Passover to fill a place of importance in their hearts.

It is not a laborious call to cover the curriculum. With devoted hearts, the people would celebrate, and the kids would be watching. “What does this mean to you, mom? Why are you doing that, dad? Where is the lamb we had last week, uncle?”

Passing on knowledge is commanded by God. We are called to teach to our children, younger believers, and those new in the faith. Sometimes it is handled like a theological checklist. Or something we pass off to the church staff. The burden seems daunting. 

Let’s look at the passage again. The parents would be practicing their faith. The kids would be noticing. Passover would not be a mere checklist of annual traditions; the people would celebrate out of faith and love.

We are fortunate to have myriads of resources at our fingertips. There are videos and books and programs designed to teach biblical truths to people with minimal religious backgrounds. Some are created to hold the attention of small children and others are created to spur deep thinking in new believers. For our core beliefs, we usually don’t need additional resources. The truths are too important to us.

We worry how to explain the hardest questions someone might ask. Remember that the question is often very simple, “What does this mean to you?” No need to be eloquent. Speak from the heart. Let the truth be filled with your experience and emotions.

I imagine their answers, “We were terrified that night, but God saved us…”

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Protect my life and deliver me; let me not be put to shame, for I have trusted in you. — Psalm 25.19

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Exodus 12.22-51 (Listen 7:31
Matthew 23 (Listen 4:53)

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The disciples to lead the next generation of the church may be those we have yet to reach.

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Pondering the Plague

Scripture Focus: Exodus 12.28-32
28 The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron. 
29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. 

31 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. 32 Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.” 

Reflection: Pondering the Plague
By John Tillman

Pharaoh released the Israelites and asked Moses for a blessing. Previously, Pharaoh threatened his life if Moses ever saw his face again. What happened in between is the tenth plague… 

No one has all the answers to difficult passages like this one. Even if we did, 400 words wouldn’t cover them. Today, we aren’t giving answers. We are asking questions. Some questions refer to the scripture and some to our hearts. Ponder these questions and additional questions of your own in prayer.

It’s not enough to simply say, “Well, the Egyptians deserved it. They are oppressors.” Moses is a genocide survivor. Moses’s Pharaoh is likely the son of the ruler who killed many young men of Moses’s age. A generation of his peers was wiped out. Now the nation that killed that generation would lose a generation of its own. Yet, instead of being satisfied or happy about this, Moses leaves “hot with anger” after announcing the plague. (Exodus 11.8) Why? Who is Moses angry with? Why isn’t retributive justice enough? Why doesn’t “an eye for an eye” satisfy?

What makes you “hot with anger”? Do you celebrate your enemy’s pain and suffering?

Moses survived Egypt’s slaughter of innocents. Jesus escaped Herod’s slaughter of innocents by fleeing to Egypt. The same nation that wiped out a generation of Israelites sheltered Jesus when his life was threatened. They played their part in bringing the gospel to the world and later became a bastion of Christianity in Africa.

Is there anyone/anything you have written off as irredeemable that may still have a part to play to benefit the gospel?

Over and over, Pharaoh was tested and warned of escalating disasters that proved true every time. Surely Pharaoh thought of his son when Moses announced the plague. Why did Pharaoh not believe? Why did he not give in?

Is there anything about which you are refusing to submit to God?

After all this conflict, and especially after losing his son, why would Pharaoh ask for a blessing from Moses? Next to Pharaoh’s request, the Logos Bible I use has a link to Genesis 27.34 in which Esau cries out for a blessing from his father. These two moments are connected. Pharaoh asked for a blessing. Scripture doesn’t say if Moses gave one. What do you think happened?

Is there anyone from whom you are withholding a blessing?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show your goodness, O Lord, to those who are good and to those who are true of heart. — Psalm 125.4

Today’s Readings
Exodus 11-12.21 (Listen 9:08
Matthew 22 (Listen 4:56)

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The plagues systematically and categorically destroyed everything that Egypt trusted in and worshiped.

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The slowly escalating nature of the plagues provides Pharaoh with off-ramps to escape further judgment.

Joy in The Way of the Cross :: Throwback Thursday

Luke 14.27
Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Reflection: Joy in The Way of the Cross :: Throwback Thursday
By Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)

Don’t be surprised if you are set at nought. It is part of the way of the Cross.

Mark 9.12 says, “He must suffer many things, and (as if this had to be mentioned very specially) be set at nought.”

If we follow in the way he went, we also must be set at nought. You will find this truer every year as you go on. And anything is easier. Scourging is easier.

Have you ever gone through your New Testament marking the places where the iron of suffering in one form or another is mentioned? It’s wonderfully enlightening.

The book is full of joy, I know, but it is also full of pain, and pain is taken for granted. “Think it not strange. Count it all joy.” We are meant to follow his steps, not avoid them. What if the suffering is caused by those whom we love? Was his not caused by those whom he loved?

Oh, what a book the Bible is! If only we steep our souls in its mighty comfort we can’t go far wrong—we shall never lose heart. 1 Peter 2.21: “For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps.”

You will find the joy of the Lord comes as you go on in the way of the Cross. It was one who had nobody all his own on earth who said, “If I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice.” (Philippians 2.17)

It is no small gift of his love, this opportunity to be offered upon the sacrifice and service; something you would not naturally choose, something that asks for more than you would naturally give. That’s the proof of his love. So rejoice! You are giving him what he asks you to give him: the chance to show you what he can do.

*Edited for length and language updated from Candles in the Dark.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus said: “Now the hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified In al ltruth I tell you, unless a wheat grain falls on earth and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest” — John 12.23-24

Today’s Readings
Exodus 11-12:21 (Listen – 9:08)
Luke 14 (Listen – 4:36)

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