Day Five: The Most Important

Mark 12:28-33 (NLT) – One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”

“When Jesus gave that reply, the teacher of the law who asked the question made an interesting response… Jesus immediately commended him for his answer. But it was not a sudden flash of some new idea. That teacher was simply echoing the way the Old Testament Scriptures also said that some things are far more important than others — even within God’s law. Think, for example, of the words of Samuel to Saul: ‘To obey is better than sacrifice’ (1 Sam 15:22); or the words of God to Israel through Hosea: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings’ (Hos 6:6); or of the voice of Proverbs: ‘To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice’ (Prov 21:3).” [Wright, Christopher J. H.. How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth]

There are many laws given to God’s people in Exodus but living out God’s culture eventually comes down to expressing this one command: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. God’s culture is not the way we look, the music we listen to, or the food we eat. God’s culture is the way we love God and others. Pray for a renewed filling of the Spirit to live out the greatest commandment today. Let’s worship to “Yes and Amen” by Housefires

– ES

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Day Four: Back to the Future

Psalm 1:1-3 (NLT)
Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.

“This inner redemption triangle of the Old Testament — of God, Israel, and the land — becomes a model, or paradigm, of God’s wider intention for the rest of the nations in all the earth (the outer creation triangle). Israel was meant to be ‘a light to the nations’…

“What took place within that inner triangle of God, Israel, and the land — including the gift of the law of Moses — can be drawn out, as it were, and considered in relation to our own context. That’s where we will find it ‘useful,’ as Paul said…

“We are not trying to enforce it literalistically — that is to say, thinking that we can ask people to do exactly what it says in the text, just as it stands. None of us now lives in ancient Israel… We live on the ‘bottom line’ of the outer triangle — living in one of the nations on God’s earth. What we need to do is to look for what God taught and required within that inner triangle (Old Testament Israel), and then ask how that still addresses and challenges the context in which we live in the outer triangle — wherever that may be. Old Testament law, by telling us what God required of that society at that time, can still challenge the church…” [Wright, Christopher J. H.. How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth]

Spend time thinking how “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor” and other commands in Exodus apply to your context today. Let’s worship to “Gracefully Broken” by Matt Redman.

– ES

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Day Three: The World’s Best Culture

Exodus 20:8-11 (NLT) – Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.

Mark 2:23-27 (NLT) – One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat. But the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look, why are they breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?”
Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God (during the days when Abiathar was high priest) and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his companions.”
Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.”

“What did Jesus mean when he said, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27)? He meant that the Sabbath law was supposed to be for human benefit. Jesus got angry because the leaders of his day had turned something good and beneficial into a burden that people had to submit to. It was as if the law was the master and humans were serving it, whereas, said Jesus, God’s idea was the other way round. He gave the law to serve human needs and help people live in better ways…

“When Jesus said that about the Sabbath, he could have been speaking about the whole law. God gave his law to Israel not to keep himself happy or to take pleasure in finding fault with Israel’s failures but for their own good… Keeping God’s law (living in God’s way) was the way to a life that was wise, healthy, satisfying, and productive — a blessing, in fact. Basically, obedience to God is good for you. And when you think about it, since God made us in the first place, the best way to make life work is to ‘follow the Maker’s instructions.’ God knows what will contribute most to human flourishing.” [Wright, Christopher J. H., How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth]

God’s culture is the best culture to live. As you live in God’s culture today, may the blessing of God flood your life. Let’s worship to the song “Build My Life” by Housefires.

– ES

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Day Two: Fill’er Up!

Ezekiel 36:26-28 (NIV)I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

Jeremiah 31:33-34 (NIV)
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
   after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
   and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
   and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
   or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
   from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
   and will remember their sins no more.”

While God’s culture forming laws were first introduced to ancient Israel in Exodus 20-23, we also read in Ezekiel and Jeremiah that God had a plan make the eternal law an internal reality. By the work of the Spirit, it is no longer a matter striving to live up to the demands of some external law by your own means. On the contrary, living according to the law is “natural” for Spirit-filled people because the law is in them. When we realize that the Spirit has written the law in our heart and minds, it becomes a matter of simply “flowing” and “keeping in step” with the Spirit.

Spend time praying throughout the day for renewed filling of the Spirit. Listen to music that opens your heart the Spirit. Living out God’s culture in this world is much easier as you and I are filled with the Spirit of God. The Spirit will help us live naturally according to the law already written on our hearts and minds.

– ES

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Day One: Rescue Before Culture Creation

Exodus 14:13, 21-22, 26-28 (NIV)Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

Exodus 20:1-3 (NIV)And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”

Take a close look at the sequence of events in Exodus. Have you ever noticed that God rescued ancient Israel from the hands of the Egyptians before any laws or commands were given? Chapter 14 goes before Chapter 20. God’s gracious deliverance of his people through the Red Sea preceded his culture forming laws. According to the progression of Exodus, there’s no culture forming before having an act of God’s deliverance and grace first!

Just think about that. God saves you by his grace before he forms you into his culture! This is huge. This changes how we think about a lot of things. We often get that mixed up. We often think that we need to conform to God’s culture first as a means to God’s grace and deliverance. It’s actually the other way around. God rescues us in order to change us. This is good news! This is the gospel.

Spend time meditating on this truth: God rescued Israel from Egypt before giving his culture forming laws. Let’s that encourage you today. Let that free you today. Let that lead you to even greater love and surrender to our gracious loving Father.

– ES

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Day Five: Response Makes It Real

Exodus 12:18 (NIV) – The Israelites did just what the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron.

Proverbs 3:1-14 (NIV) – My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.

The Israelites did just what the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron. The brevity with which this is stated implies unquestioning obedience, and the reader is expected to assume that everything was done according to the instructions given in 12:3-27 (Alexander. Exodus, p.230, IV Press). Their response implies that they believed and trusted the way that God was instructing and providing for them. We don’t even want to think about the consequences had they second-guessed God and refused to believe when God commanded them to place the blood of the lamb on their doorposts and shelter inside. Their response was that they took God at His word and connected their belief with active obedience. Whatever emotions and thoughts and turmoil that may have been racing through their hearts and minds essentially took second fiddle to God’s word to them and it resulted in their witnessing God’s amazing power and experiencing firsthand the change that was happening in and around their lives. More abundantly than we can imagine, God has saved us and called us to powerfully witness and experience firsthand the transformation He brings by the power of His Spirit to those who are in Christ. What is needed is the connection to an obedient and active response to His word in every part of our lives.

Read, mediate upon and pray through the verses of Proverbs 3:1-14, asking God for His empowering to obediently respond and follow the commands of these verses. Is there a present circumstance in your life that is bringing you down or causing heartache or turmoil? Commit and dedicate your heart to trust in the Lord and not lean on your understanding. Don’t hesitate, instead simply do the instructions of these life-giving words, trusting in the favor of God’s salvation power to bring real transformation into your life.

– CH

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Day Four: We belong!

Exodus 12:1-2;14-17; 13:1-2 (NRSV) – The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.

(vv. 14-17) This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day you shall hold a solemn assembly, and on the seventh day a solemn assembly; no work shall be done on those days; only what everyone must eat, that alone may be prepared by you. You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought your companies out of the land of Egypt: you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a perpetual ordinance.

(vv. 13:1-12) The Lord said to Moses: Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine.

Romans 6:11-13 (NIV) – In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.

1 Peter 2:9-12 (NIV) – But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Israel’s rescue was so miraculous and significant that the nation was to commemorate it every year throughout the coming generations, but it was not the end of what God had done for them when He brought them out of Egypt. God had told them that they would know that He was making a distinction between them and Egypt (Ex.11:7). First, God designated “this month” to be the first month of their calendar. It was going to be a new beginning. Second, God gave them instructions regarding future commemorations. One distinctive feature of these future festivals was that they were to abstain from eating leavened bread (i.e. bread baked with yeast). But what was the distinction God was making? Was it about calendars, festivals and diet? Yes and no. It wasn’t about the actual dates, rituals or specific foods they could or could not eat. It was about everything new – life, identity and purpose. God transformed their status from being slaves to becoming royal priests in His service. Their distinction was that God brought them to Himself to be consecrated to Him. He was calling them His own. They now belonged to God, and God was with them. Therefore, the way they lived and expressed their faith was supposed to also distinguish them because they belonged to God.

It is the same for us who believe and follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We, too, were dead and made alive to God in Christ Jesus, given everything new – life, identity, and purpose. We now belong to God. We are His church. How can we live this new life for ourselves?! We have been wonderfully saved! We must now together be wonderfully determined to be and live set apart for God. We are to live for Christ. This means that our time, our daily priorities and even the food that sustains us are now different, because our primary work is to do the will of the Father.

Today, listen to and worship with the song, “Set Apart”, and let’s offer all of who we are to God and pray that He would fill us with His Spirit to live as those who belong to Him, so that our lives together would sing His praises to make Him known to the people around us so that they too may be brought to God to belong to Him.

– CH

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Day Three: What’s it all for?

Exodus 12:14 (NRSV) – This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

Exodus 12:21-27 (NRSV) – Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go, select lambs for your families, and slaughter the passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in the basin. None of you shall go outside the door of your house until morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike down the Egyptians; when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you down. You shall observe this rite as a perpetual ordinance for you and your children. When you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this observance. And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this observance?’ you shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed down and worshiped.

1 Corinthians 5:7b (NIV) – For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

Some things are hard to remember, but God was determined that His people remember the night He passed over the houses of the Israelites. Even before the victory was realized, God called them to celebrate the LORD’s Passover year after year, but why? It was to be a serious yet celebratory reminder of who God is and who they were as His people. They would be facing many challenges, dangers and fears and God wanted them to remember how great was His mercy and how He protected and loved them. This would also reassure them of God’s promise and how He was leading them into a new beginning and life journey with Him. In other words, as they looked back and remembered God’s faithfulness, they were reassured of their future blessing from God.

In the midst of daily life, don’t we also need God’s reassurance? As we face difficulties, we may be tempted to doubt God’s love for us and ask, “Does God really love me?” As we daily face our human frailty, we can become nervous and even afraid of the uncertainties of this life. But we, too, are called to remember who God is and who we are – that Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. As Christians, the Lord’s Supper, was passed on to us to help us remember the immensity of God’s love and the centrality of God’s great salvation in Christ. The Lord’s Supper is often referred to as “super worship” because through it we are brought back into awe as we remember the seriousness of our sin, the reality of God’s judgment, and the wonder and amazement of how we were spared by God’s mercy. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can experience both gratitude and confidence as we grasp the power of Christ’s blood in realizing that we have been passed over and saved. This is our everyday reality!

Today, consider – what areas of your life need to be brought more fully under the power of Christ’s blood? Moment to moment, we can believe and apply the tremendous truth that Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us.

Worship God as you listen to and sing, “God and God Alone”, and may our hearts humbly bow down and lift Jesus higher and higher for He is God and God alone.

Father, please help us to bring the entirety of our lives under the power of the blood of Jesus Christ. Thank you that we can face every tomorrow with gratitude and confidence, because You have passed over us!

– CH

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Day Two: He Alone Provide

Exodus 12:1-11 (NRSV) – The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight.

They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. 

God continues to unfold the truth His judgment has revealed. God is holy, and His holy justice demands that sin be judged and punished. But God is also love, holy love, and so His justice also longs to rescue and save. And He is the only one in whom perfect and holy justice and love can come together and provide the way for His judgment and punishment to be satisfied and averted, so that when He passes through, He passes over. This is known as atonement.

Atonement means making amends, blotting out the offense, and giving satisfaction for wrong done; thus reconciling to oneself the alienated other and restoring the disrupted relationship. Scripture depicts all human beings as needing to atone for their sins but lacking the power and resources for doing so.  We have offended our holy Creator, whose nature it is to hate sin (Jer.44:4; Hab 1:13) and to punish it (Ps.5:4-6; Rom.1:18,2:5-9). No acceptance by, or fellowship with, such a God can be expected unless atonement is made, and since there is sin in even our best actions, anything we do in hopes of making amends can only increase our guilt or worsen our situation. This makes it ruinous folly to seek to establish one’s own righteousness before God (Job 15:15-16; Rom.10:2-3); it simply can’t be done. But against this background of human hopelessness, Scripture sets forth the love, grace, mercy, pity, kindness, and compassion of God, the offended Creator, in himself providing the atonement that our sin has made necessary. [J.I. Packer, Concise Theology]

There is that saying, “Don’t get lost in the details!” But we see here in Exodus 12 that God spells out the specific details required of His people so that they would be ready when God passed through. God commanded that blood from the lamb be placed on the doorposts and lintels of their homes. Every detail mattered because death was still required, but God provided an acceptable substitute – the slaughtered lamb. God had promised that when He saw the blood, He would pass over. The same God who gave the warning of His coming judgment provided the substitute as the way of rescue. You see, without the shedding of blood, there can be no rescue from God’s judgment, there can be no forgiveness of sin. God’s love and mercy defended and protected them from His own wrath. Every detail beautifully gave a preview of God’s greatest deliverance when He provided eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, His only Son, to die on the cross as our substitute. God gave Himself as the perfect atonement for our sin. How glorious is the grace of God in Christ Jesus!

As you listen and sing the song, It is Well”, welcome the Holy Spirit to fill you with God’s powerful and everlasting presence. May our hearts be filled with praise and hope and peace as we each receive afresh that it is well with my soul!

– CH

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Day One: Moment of Truth

Exodus 12:12-13 (NRSV) – For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

The LORD did not mince words when He declared his final plague upon Egypt and Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s heart had remained hard and stubborn and he thought that he could beat God. But the battle and the outcome belonged to the LORD. God was going to execute His judgment on them by passing through the land. What happens when God passes through like this? When God comes in judgment, there is death.

Scripture diagnoses sin as a universal deformity of human nature, found at every point in every person (1 Kings 8:46; Rom. 3:9-23; Rom. 7:18; 1 John 1:8-10). Both Testaments have names for it that display its ethical character as rebellion against God’s rule, missing the mark God has set for us to aim at, transgressing God’s law, disobeying God’s directives, offending God’s purity by defiling oneself, and incurring guilt before God the judge. This moral deformity is dynamic: sin stands revealed as an energy of irrational, negative, and rebellious reaction to God’s call and command, a spirit of fighting God in order to play God. The root of sin is pride and enmity against God… [J.I. Packer, Concise Theology]

We sometimes talk about having a “moment of truth”, an “aha!” revelation, where we realize or discover something that was true all along. This can be an intensely happy experience or one that is heart-wrenching, painful and even tragic. Pharaoh and Egypt had their moment of truth for God revealed what had been true all along – how futile their ways and beliefs were, and how tragic life is without truly obeying and worshiping the one true God, the LORD. But the Israelites also received their moment of truth – Ex. 12:13 – “The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” The Israelites thought they only needed rescue from oppression and slavery in Egypt, but they too needed rescue from God’s judgment for they were not exempt. And at the heart of this plague was God’s incredible promise – when I see the blood, I will pass over you.

We too are not exempt from God’s judgment on sin but the same promise of the Old Testament exodus is ours through the Gospel of Jesus Christ that heralds the new exodus –

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5b-7)

Today, let us not mince words as we come to God in prayer. Are you trying to play His role in your life? Are there still areas in your life where you are fighting God? God promises that when He sees Jesus Christ in us, covering us, He will pass over us, so let’s confess and acknowledge the stubborn ways of our hearts to God receiving the washing and renewal of His Spirit who leads us into freedom.

– CH

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