Exodus 15-16 B

“The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will extol Him.” (‭‭15:2‬)

After escaping through the Red Sea, seeing the corpses of the Egyptians washing ashore and realizing they were really out of there, the first Jewish worship song was born. Praise was a natural and immediate reaction.

However, this group of people had only just met their God, and the relationship was young. Directly following the songs of praise: crying and groaning in despair. They panic because there is no water. He provides, and they’re momentarily satiated. Then panic returns because there’s no food. He provides again.

Later on, Israel will poetically remember theses days as their infancy. They were like children with the LORD, and He was patient and provided. His discipline came when necessary, but generally these days are remembered fondly by the prophets, poets and scribes.

What is your relationship with the LORD marked by in this season? Praise, because you just saw Him do something stupendous? Panic, because you don’t feel sure about Him as a provider yet? Are things feeling dry, because it’s been awhile since anything changed? Are you feeling hopeful, because there are about to?

He is in every season with you. Ask Him about it today. In what ways are you still acting childish? In what ways have you grown?

-Bethany

Exodus 13-14 B

I can’t imagine how the Israelites felt, watching 600 chariots of their enemies charging towards them in revenge. They immediately panic (who wouldn’t?)

 “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!” 14:11-14

But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Isn’t that just the best pep talk? “Don’t be afraid, just stand here calmly while God defends you.” Letting the Lord defend you, while meekly standing by, is hard. Like standing, cornered in front of the ocean, while your enemies descend upon you.

Maybe it’s not a person threatening to completely clobber you, but a circumstance. An illness. Debt. A job. An addiction. Grief.

With God, there is always a way out. The Israelites couldn’t have possibly imagined that God would pull the ocean into two bodies of water so they could escape right down the middle, their feet on dry sand. He is a mastermind of rescuing and always has a plan.

Fear not and stand firm. 

 

-Carly

Exodus 11-12 B

Much of Israel’s foundational identity is formed in these chapters. It’s the beginning of what they will be marked by as a people group, not unlike Abraham’s call to be a blessing and circumcised. It’s exclusive and specific, yet open. A foreigner can join, but only by serious commitment.

Neither Moses nor Pharaoh knew how many plagues the LORD had planned for this event. They didn’t know what would be the last straw. Even with all the horrible plagues, a nation isn’t going to say goodbye to over a million slaves.

Israel gets on board. Somewhere along the way, they went from being annoyed with Moses to being ready to follow him out of their home. 430 years is a long time for a people group to inhabit a place. Imagine if in the year 2050, anyone who could trace US heritage back to the Mayflower left.

After 430 years and 10 plagues they all suddenly left in a hurry. No waiting for dough to rise. In the middle of the night it suddenly became time to leave. Right that minute. Everything changed in an instant.

This is something the LORD wanted them to remember with all these serious observational holidays and no leaven eating. There was suddenly no more time.

These laws and festivals always make me wish I marked more anniversaries of the LORD’s faithfulness. He did something really amazing, all those years ago.

I just realized, today is the 23rd anniversary of my appendectomy. The way I can know, is my appendix ruptured on the way home from a friends wedding and it was discovered five days later. Five days ago, those friends celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary. Hereby, May 17th is the anniversary of me being alive against all odds. The LORD spared me. I decided in the hospital in the week that followed that my life was to belong to the LORD in a more profound way. I would keep following after Him, because He was keeping me alive. All to Him I owe.

Is there a moment in your history with the LORD deserving a holiday? Ask Him about it today, and rejoice in His salvation!

-Bethany

Exodus 9-10 B

Did you see the explanation Beth shared with us about the intention behind the plagues? I was fascinated! It’s such a reminder of how intentional God is.

What questions did these chapters bring up? Here are some of mine:

Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? (This gets addressed in Romans 9, but is still hard to ignore when you’re reading the text.)

Why did God involve Moses? I noticed several times, God would intervene with the weather, like when he shifted the wind to bring the locusts down. It reminded me that God didn’t need Moses to talk to Pharaoh, and it wasn’t Moses’ own power that activated the plagues, just a mere signal. (As the story progresses, we’ll see their relationship grow, and Moses refers to God as a friend. Sometimes it’s good to ask questions, even if you know they get answered later on in the text. The Bible is so multi-faceted, there’s always more to learn.)

How were the magicians able to pull off most of these plagues? Do not underestimate the powers people can call upon. The more we familiarize ourselves with God, the easier it is to decipher when someone’s imitating him.

What thoughts or observations did you have?

 

-Carly

Exodus 7-8 B

Anybody else ready to watch the Prince of Egypt right about now? I love the Steve Martin and Martin Short classic pairing for the roles of Pharaoh’s sorcerers.

I always wondered how those guys were able to mimic some of the LORD’s miracles. Turing a staff into a snake, is something we’d all pay real David Blaine money to see. Turning water to blood is also no small feat. I think I assumed it must have been an illusion before, but now, considering that perhaps the earth was filled with lessor gods, sorcerers had real power–as I’ve come to realize as an adult, they still do–but it’s much less power than the LORD’s (7:12).

They somehow go on to create frogs (8:7), but are finally stumped by the gnats (8:18). I’m sure this being their stopping point is significant, but I don’t know why that is. Please share if you have an idea. At this point, the magicians announce, “This is the finger of God.” (8:19), but Pharaoh wasn’t ready to make such a declaration.

Consider these ideas as you read:

  • The Exodus is Israel’s first introduction to the LORD. They wont get the book of Genesis until later.
  • The LORD had allowed lessor spiritual beings to exercise power on the earth, but now He is revealing His Supremacy over them.
  • The plagues targeted Egyptian gods (I talked a little about this when I covered 9-10 last time).

Another quick thought I had while rereading this time: Jesus is very explicitly depicted as the promised Second Moses (if you have no idea where I’m getting this, let me know and I will direct you to some further reading). What I observed this time around, is how Moses and Aaron turn water to blood. The life-source of Egypt becomes a source of death. The difference between Egypt and Canaan is that Egypt was entirely irrigated from the Nile and Canaan relied on rain. Therefore, the Nile was a god in Egypt and Ba’al (a god who supposedly controlled the rain) ruled Canaan. In any case, this is something Moses did very early on in his “career”. In a perhaps paralleled observation, Jesus’ first recorded miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding. In one story: the life source was found to be death. In the next: the life source became an abundant life source. Yeah? Thoughts?

What did you notice today?

-Bethany

Exodus 5-6 B

Put yourself in the Israelites shoes for a minute. They are getting worked harder and whipped more; punished for something Moses has done! And remember, the last time he was around, he was burying someone he murdered in the sand and then made a run for it. He returns from hiding away and does nothing but stir up more trouble.

We, as readers, know what’s going on behind the curtain. God is orchestrating a massive rescue plan to free them. They’ll never be forced to slap bricks together again! This story will go down in history, their leader will foreshadow the Messiah and give a glimpse of mankind’s future.

But they can’t see the big picture, the mural. They are just a few feet in front of the wall, looking at a mess of paint. Showing up to work and getting whipped harder every day.

Is that you?

Are hardships and burdens piling up on you? You want to trust God, but it’s hard to gain perspective?

Have faith. Even when it feels like there’s no solution within reach and no way out, trust that God is working behind the curtain to bring you relief.

Even if the workload is piling up, or it feels like someone is raining blows down on you harder and harder every day.

We are lucky to have access to read the ending of God’s rescue story. Page after page of Scripture is drenched in evidence that he shows up, he provides and he loves us. But even so, it can be hard when you can’t see the big picture.

Take a deep breath and lean into him.

-Carly

Exodus 3-4 B

By the end of Deuteronomy, Moses is a real hero. He is remembered as one of the greatest prophets of all time. He joins Jesus and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration. While we know, by Elisha’s testimony, that Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot, we sometimes assume (although there are no witnesses) that something similar happened to Moses, because no one ever found his body. The LORD worked powerfully through Moses and he grew to be an incredible man.

Now is when we remember his humble beginnings. A murderer, hiding in the desert, is called to do something Great for the LORD and he is sure he is the wrong person for the job. I’m going to see if I can list all his reservations.

  1. “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the songs of Israel out of Egypt?” (3:11) To which the LORD responds, “Certainly, I will be with you.”
  2. “What if they do not believe me or listen to what I say?” (4:1) The LORD gives Moses three powerful signs.
  3. “I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (4:10) The LORD reminds Moses who made his mouth.
  4. “Please, LORD, now send the message by whomever You will.” (4:13) And the LORD gets angry, then agrees to have Aaron help.

I wonder which direction this story would have gone if the LORD had just killed Moses and found someone else. So much back talk! Then I remember, Moses didn’t just not know himself, He didn’t know God. This was their first meeting. He was very familiar with the power of Pharaoh and Egypt’s gods, but the LORD was an unknown, though I assume he had heard a story or two about how the Hebrews ended up in Egypt in the first place?

Still, the Exodus story is how the LORD introduces Himself to His people and the nations. While I want to call Moses an idiot for resisting, I need to remember, he didn’t know the end of the story like I do.

Furthermore, as one who has studied Scripture and the Exodus story numerous times, do I still hesitate when I feel the LORD prompting me to do something? Do I still make excuses or suggest He use someone else? Why YES! I’ve done that! I’ve had plenty of arguments with the LORD throughout my life, protesting the way He made me, complaining about the tasks He’s given me to do, and always suggesting there is someone else He could be using (hello, a man, probably?). What is my excuse?

What is your excuse? Is the LORD prompting you do follow Him in obedience about something? If He was calling you to do something, what would be your reasons not to follow?

He asks Moses what is in his hand (4:2) and it seems insignificant–a staff–a normal thing for a shepherd to be holding. This very thing is what the LORD uses as His first sign to Pharaoh. What is in your hand?

-Bethany

Exodus 1-2 B

I’m so thankful for the inclusion of the women’s stories in today’s chapters.

The midwives. They are brave and saving lives! What a reminder to obey God’s authority over anyone else we find ourselves under. I’ve always found their actions a great example of how godly obedience isn’t always black and white. Are we suppose to lie and sneak around behind authorities? No. But they make a judgment call and are greatly rewarded by the Lord because of their wisdom and reverence. Staying in rhythm with God’s heart will make choices like that one a no-brainer.

Moses’ mom. SLOW. CLAP. I can’t even fathom sending a newborn baby down the river, because that was my best option to preserve his life. Sometimes we have to let someone go to save them. Motherhood is intense and a constant lesson of trusting God while we take care of the lives he’s entrusted us with.

Miriam. I imagine her young here, following the floating basket down the river until it’s pulled from the water. But her quick response that lands Moses’ back home for a few years seems so wise and mature! She is so brave; approaching Pharaoh’s daughter and making bold suggestions. Godliness is sticking your neck out for the vulnerable.

The rest of Exodus is patriarchal and will focus a lot on great, godly men. But for now, on the eve of Mother’s Day, reflect on the godly women in your life and pray over them.

-Carly

Jonah B

I hear a lot of people frame this story as if Jonah was afraid to go to Nineveh, but fear wasn’t his main deterrent for bringing the LORD’s message.

After all the mayhem with the storm, his near drowning, his salvation through the fish, his eventual obedience leading to Nineveh’s repentance and forgiveness, we find out his clear motivation:

“Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” (4:2)

He goes on to ask the LORD to kill him, because that would be better than to witness the salvation of his enemies. He would have rather the LORD let him drown in the sea than see the Ninevites receive mercy.

I love the LORD’s reply: “Do you have any good reason to be angry?” (4:4) “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” (4:11)

The attitude of Israel to keep the LORD to themselves is something too easily mirrored in us. We shrug at the wrath of the LORD when it comes to our enemies, but we cherish His tender heart towards us. It makes sense. It feels good. We like to point to Romans 9 and say, “who are we to argue with a God who choose us and didn’t choose them?”. 

Yikes. The LORD has compassion on all His creation.

Let’s search our hearts to see if there is any of this grossness in ourselves. Is there someone, or some group of people, you would like to see the wrath of God come against? Sometimes I think we use the “come back Jesus” line as an excuse to not get involved, but is the LORD calling you to wade into the territory of your enemies? Ask Him about it today.

-Bethany

Proverbs 31 B

This chapter use to really piss me off. I felt pigeon-holed and crammed into a box I didn’t feel like I fit into. Like we often say around here, Scripture can take a beating. It holds up. You can use it as a punching bag for your hurt and pain inflicted by the church or men or God, etc, and it will still be holy, true and perfect. It’s alive and will work to reconcile you with God; it will smooth over your wounds like a soothing balm.

(I still remember a conversation I had with a friend over ten years ago about this chapter. His words redeemed it greatly for me and allowed me to see it with fresh eyes. Our relationship with the Bible is just that, a relationship. It will grow and change!)

I love what Beth wrote about verses 10-31 and encourage you to revisit it.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” 31:8-9

We are commanded to speak up. Don’t feel bogged down by this; not everyone is going to MLK Jr. But be praying about what portion of advocacy you can take on. There are many ways, big and small, to work for justice.

Vote well. Shut down racist or misogynist remarks immediately. Give away more of your money to people who need it, or to the people who are helping those in need. If you are pro-life, speak up for all forms of life who can’t defend themselves, whether they’re in the womb or out.

Take time today to pray about how you can get involved.

 

-Carly

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead