Category Archives: Exodus

February 22 – The Blessing of a Job Done Well

The breach of contract that God’s people found themselves in led to a very serious wake-up call.  They needed to re-establish their relationship with the Lord so when Moses relayed the instructions that God had given to him about building the tabernacle, everyone listened carefully and followed God’s instructions with great attention to detail.  The tabernacle was to be an exceptionally special place where God met with His people and it was designed to be portable too.  I love how the phrase, “all who were willing” is used several times to describe how people gave specific supplies and services.  People gave from a willing heart to the extent that Moses had to say, “enough!”

Everything that was required to build the tabernacle had been received.  Moses inspected all the work they had accomplished. They had done just as the Lord commanded.  Then Moses blessed them.  Oh, the joy of knowing that you have done a job well.  The glory of the Lord then filled the tabernacle and that concludes the blessings from the book of Exodus, the Story of God’s people rescued from the Pharaoh of Egypt to live life in a relationship with the God of the universe.

God has already blessed mankind immensely but there are a whole lot of blessings yet to come, and some of those blessings will depend on the faithfulness to the work God gave the Israelites to do.  One of my jobs after my enlistment in the Marine Corps and before getting married, was to help people better understand their electric bills.  My workdays were spent tethered to a phone line looking up records on microfiche, seeking to find resolutions to electric questions that were most commonly asked in the form of a complaint.  Over the year I spent at Consumer’s Power Company, I received several “people pleaser” awards as satisfied customers expressed gratitude for my service.  Things like those are fun to get as they can represent doing your job to the best of your ability.  God too has rewards in store for His faithful ones.  Will we one day hear God say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”?  That hinges on whether or not we have lived a life of faithfully serving Him.

Exodus 39:43 HCSB

February 21 – Painful Blessing of Loyalty

All of Israel had just agreed whole-heartedly to the covenant with the Lord.  This was not a small deal so God called Moses into an exclusive executive meeting and gave him massive amounts of information including specific plans so Moses could construct a tent of meeting where God’s people would worship Him. The plans included instructions for the priests and described the items required inside the tabernacle too.

Moses was gone for over a month for this administrative meeting with God.  He then came down the mountain with the first hard copy of the Ten Commandments, written on stone tablets.  But while Moses was away, the people begged Aaron to give them “gods” they could see, so Aaron gave them what they wanted: a golden calf.  The people chose to break the promises they had made to God and this made the Lord, and Moses, furious.  God told Moses that He was going to destroy them all; however, Moses interceded on behalf of the Israelites.  He demolished the god of gold and also broke the tablets of stone.

Moses then called those who were for the Lord to come to him and the tribe of Levi responded. With swords the Levites went through the camp killing 3,000 of the disobedient Israelites.  Purity is not a small thing in the eyes of a holy God. I cannot begin to imagine the grief experienced in the camp that day. With great reverence to God, Moses spoke to the Levites, Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the LORD, for you obeyed him even though it meant killing your own sons and brothers. Today you have earned a blessing.”  What a sobering experience. The blessing earned would not be quickly forgotten.

Exodus 32:29 NLT

February 20 – Blessings That Are Well with My Soul

We can read pages of God’s promises to the Israelites as His Story continues to unfold for His people during the time of Moses.  Some of these blessings were very conditional.  Do this and this will happen; if not, it won’t.  The next blessing is contingent on the people’s choice to worship.  Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.”  

God desired the Israelites to take over the land He had promised to them.  This would require trust in God since the land was presently occupied by the enemies of God.  Worship draws us near God; it gives us a proper perspective of the goodness and greatness of our Lord.  Although the blessing mentioned above was specifically for those about to enter into the Promised Land, we as those living years later can still draw on the importance that God places on worship.

Choosing to worship God blesses us in many ways. Worshiping God is easy to do when our world is humming along smoothly.  I remember thinking about this with heightened depth one Sunday morning.  Several members of our house church family were enjoying a vacation together so we gathered to worship God on the beach.  The waves were rolling in and before Russell preached, one of the young guys strummed his guitar as we sang a song called, It is Well with my Soul. My eyes welled up with tears, thinking of how the day before Sophie had nearly drowned as a rip tide took her further and further from the shore.  Did I have the deep conviction that even in tragedy, God is worthy of worship?  I sang on, sensing His nearness.  Come what may, because of Him, it is well with my soul.

Exodus 23:25-26 NIV

February 19 – Blessing God Matters

There were a wide variety of laws passed down from God to Moses and many of these same laws are recorded in the four books that follow Genesis: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  God was crystal clear that other gods were not to be called upon (do not invoke the names of other gods) for He alone made the covenant with the people Israel. “In all I have said to you take heed; do not mention the name of other gods [either in blessing or cursing]; do not let such speech be heard from your mouth.”  Other “gods” are not God.  That may seem straightforward to us, but many people struggle with this truth.  A Chinese taxi driver and Russell had a conversation about God as the taxi crawled through afternoon traffic.  When Russell had shared the new covenant hope through Jesus, the cab driver commented, “Gods are gods.  Jesus?  Buddha?  Same-same”.  Russell responded, “People are people.  When I get out someone else can pay.  O.K.?” “What?  I drove you; you pay me.” “I guess you are right; it’s not the same.  There is only one God who has paid my debt and who provides for me.  That is the only God I will honor.”  Who we say God is matters to God.

Exodus 23:13 AMP

 

 

February 18 – Blessed Covenant

God proclaimed the Ten Commandments to the people.  There was thunder, lightning, the sound of a trumpet and smoke surrounded the mountain.  It was natural for the people to be afraid; I would have been too!  Wise fear of God, as the One we certainly cannot control, can keep us from sinning.  God told the Israelites not to craft any “gods” but instead, “You must make an earthen altar for Me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats, as well as your cattle. I will come to you and bless you in every place where I cause My name to be remembered.”  Through Moses, God continued to talk to the Israelites about the covenant He established with His people clarifying many areas of life.

In hindsight we see how everything was leading up to a new covenant.  Jesus is that new covenant.  When we place our faith and trust in God’s Son, the sacrificial substitute who takes away the sins of the world, we can come before Him clean and blessed by God Almighty.  The fear of realizing we cannot control God is replaced by the assurance that we do not need to try to control Him.  He is good.  The Almighty blesses.

Exodus 20:24 HCSB

February 17 – Remember, We Are Blessed to Rest!

It is hard to know exactly, but about 500-650 years have passed since God promised Abraham that he would be blessed and all peoples would be blessed through him.  God’s Story is a long one!  Three months after God led the Israelites from Egypt, He was ready to make a very personal covenant with His people.  Were His people ready to live out their part of the agreement?

At Mount Sinai, with dense smoke coming from the mountain, God spoke what we would later refer to as the Ten Commandments.  Right before the commandment “Honor your mother and father”, God gave this one: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work… For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” 

The Israelites’ leader was God Himself and they learned that loyalty and allegiance is shown through obedience, even when obeying is hard.  Resting is a difficult thing for me.  I think my issue with this command ultimately has to do with trust.  Do I trust that God is really in control and that things will not fall apart if I put my lists aside to rest?  My head knows the right answer, but living out what I know is right is an on-going process.

During the years of raising our family while working in Asia, two of my most cherished rests were vacations only an hour’s drive from home.  Leaving behind the computer and language books and packing lots of snacks and board games we “camped out” at a mountain hotel near a British soccer camp that our kiddos attended.  In the crisp morning air Russ took the kids to training and I took long runs in the countryside and allowed my mind to be refreshed in the beauty of God’s creation.  Afternoons and evenings were intentionally restful as we enjoyed being together as a family.  God has blessed us to rest.  In fact, as part of the Ten Commandments, He has commanded us to do so each week as we set aside time to purposely meet with Him.  Just like the Israelites of the Old Testament, when we obey, we live out our loyalty.

Exodus 20:8-11 NIV

February 16 – Blessed by God Who Delivers

With the multitudes departing, the Exodus began.  The Egyptians even gave the Israelites gold to take with them as they made their exit!  As God guided him by a cloud and by fire, Moses led the people.  The Israelites passed through the parted Red Sea, the Egyptians who pursued them were destroyed, and the liberated sang songs of praise to God.  God provided water, manna, and quail and the Israelites journeyed on.

Moses had a wonderful family reunion when his wife, their two sons and Jethro, his father-in-law, met up with him in the desert.  I love these little personal glimpses into the big Story, for they are like a small puzzle piece put into place and the whole picture is made more complete.  Jethro was thrilled to hear that the Israelites were delivered from the oppression in Egypt and how it was all due to God’s strength and goodness to bless His people. Jethro told Moses, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.”

While we lived outside of the US, our family experienced a lighter version of this kind of a reunion during our annual group meetings.  Christian workers would gather together representing extended families and tribes, and celebrate the Father’s blessings from the past year.  Fellow missionaries became uncles and aunts to our children, their own children were like cousins to ours, and to this day our family is blessed with those deep relationships forged from rejoicing in God’s redemption.  Reflecting upon and sharing God’s blessings with others leads us to thank and bless God.  A thankful life is a blessed life, and the goodness course continues.

Exodus 18:10 ESV

 

February 15 – Bless Me as You Leave

Moses was eighty years old and the task before him must have seemed insurmountable. Pharaoh was not budging but God told Moses it would be that way for a reason:  all would know that He is the Lord when the Story of God’s miraculous power would be told.  It took several devastating plagues for Pharaoh’s eyes to be opened to see that God was in charge.

One night, Pharaoh finally summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Get out!  Leave my people—and take the rest of the Israelites with you! Go and worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you said, and be gone. Go, but bless me as you leave.”  Pharaoh ultimately saw God as powerful.  The leader of all of Egypt bowed to ask for God’s blessing.

No matter if we see ourselves as weak or strong, the reality is that God is the most powerful and He is able.  May He bless us today as we choose to connect with Him.  May we then follow Him as we continue to make choices that come before us; the easy ones and the hard ones.  Let’s seek to see from God’s perspective and bless people, even those who have hearts that to us may seem like stone.

Exodus 12:31b-32 NLT

February 14 – God’s Great Love as Lent Begins

Ash Wednesday 2015.  I only know that because my walking partner for Wednesdays texted to say she would need to reschedule our walk.  Intrigued, I looked online for churches within a bike ride that held an Ash Wednesday service. And All Saints Catholic Church on 10th was where I pedaled to at noon. Crisp, bright, air made an invigorating 5-block ride and the parking lot was filling up as I locked my bike to an empty green bike rack.  A little path through a garden-like area lead me to the large front doors where I was handed a paper about Lent and joined people of every age.
Wow!  I could never be bored in this church! Built in the early 1900’s it houses history, art, and years of families have sat in these pews.  There was so much to look at, from the many styles of stain glass windows to paintings covering nearly all the wall space.  And the ceiling!  Way too many golden stars to even count, but I could systematically count them if given enough Sundays especially if I allowed my mind to drift.  I did not want to drift today. My desire is to connect with God, the same God that provides me with sunshine in the day and starts at night and lungs to breathe His air both inside and outside of the space we call sacred. It is He who I want to connect with.
High heels on newly restored wooden floors, hushed children’s questions, kneelers being put down and put back up again.  No church bells, no incense, no organ. Ushers found seats for late-comers and the filling the church became full.  And it was Wednesday, in the middle of the day.
A man with a robe and white hair began by saying this was a time for intentional change and concluded by repeating person-by-person, “remember you were dust and to dust you will return” as a dark smudge of ashes, in the form of a cross, was rubbed into the forehead of each person in line.
When I think about it, and I do, often, life is really short. What am I doing, or not doing, that makes the One that gives me life happy?  In light of cremation becoming a popular after-death choice, ashes on the forehead in a church filled with people makes me think that apart from Jesus, are we not all walking dead people?  I want life.  Full life.  Meaningful life.  Purpose-filled and blessed life.
Familiar readings were read, and nothing added to them, from the prophet Joel, bits from the Psalms were spoken as a congregational response, then more readings: 2 Corinthians and parts of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  We were then encouraged not to take the wide way of the world but to follow Robert Frost, and Jesus before him, to take the path less traveled.  Three areas of helpful change were expounded upon concerning prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I agreed with it all, I think most people that filled the church do too, but there is more to it than agreeing.  In order for a meaningful change in these areas, or in other areas, action needs to come after belief.  What will change me in these 40 days leading up to celebrating Jesus victorious over sin and death is actually praying, actually fasting, actually giving.
I left the empty church a little more full, grateful for the time to think about God’s love for me and increasing my desire to put thought into action. Specifically, really talk to God about the people and situations that fill my days. To give up anxiety, which takes more self-control then giving up chocolate and to choose to really depend on Him, for He cares for me. And as He cares for me, He also cares for others, may He use me to give to others needs too.  Blessed to be a blessing happens when my life is connected to God, day-by-day.
Today is Ash Wednesday 2018. Many churches in my neighborhood will offer a variety of times to meet. One church even offers drive-thru ashes from 7-10 am.  May we be mindful of God the author of life and love on today Valentine’s Day as intentionally many will focus on the life of Jesus at the culmination of His life lived on this earth. Love is so good.

 

 

Back to the Blessing Book….

A Hard Heart toward God’s Blessing

About half a century later Joseph died.  Joseph’s death concludes the Genesis record and the first of many chapters in God’s Story.  Years passed and a new leader emerged in the Story; Moses.  Family heritage is important to God as we will often see in listed genealogies.  It is interesting to know that Moses was a great-grandson of Levi, one of the twelve sons of Jacob.  The youngest of three children, Moses was born in Egypt, rescued from the Nile River as a baby, grew up in the Egyptian palace, spent years in the outback as a shepherd for his father-in-law, and would be used by God to deliver His people from the hand of the Egyptians to be brought into the land of blessing and promise.

This would not be an easy rescue mission but a very fascinating one as God’s provision, protection and blessing continually guided His people.  By this time in history the Egyptians do not remember Joseph and all the good he had done for them.  Even as slaves in the land, the Israelite community grew and because they were seen as a threat, they were mistreated.  Moses, as God’s spokesperson, asked that all the Israelites be given permission to leave to worship Yahweh and this new Pharaoh did not want to lose his workforce.  Pharaoh said, “I’d sooner send you off with God’s blessings than let you go with your children.”  Once again, Moses and Aaron (his brother and ministry partner) were thrown out of Pharaoh’s sight. Pharaoh, with his hard heart, did not get a blessing from God and another plague, this time of locusts, filled his land. God, may our hearts be soft to Your ways in our days.  Amen.

Exodus 10:10a MSG