Exodus 17:11-13 (NIV) 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
“But it is precisely here that we must remember the larger picture. The daily battles to be won must be seen within the context of the cosmic battle that Christ has already won. We see this in principle already in Exodus 17:8-16.” [NIVAC, Exodus, 362]
The Israelites at that time consisted of weakened, untrained former slaves and were attacked in cowardly fashion by the Amalekites. What the Amalekites did not realize is that this is God’s people, his treasured possession and to attack them is an attack on the LORD. Joshua is sent out to fight, but ultimately the battle belongs to the LORD.
What is the function of Moses’ raised hands and staff?
How does that function relate to what Christ has done for us?
Let’s pray: Jesus, your life, death and resurrection decisively won the battle once and for all, and may that victory also be experienced more in our daily life as your people. This is ultimately not our battle, but yours, we trust you Lord! In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Exodus 17:15 (NIV) 15 Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner.
“A banner was usually a flag, streamer, or wrought emblem affixed to the end of a standard. It was common in the ancient world for banners to be used for military, national, or religious purposes in much the way they are today. The purpose of the banner was to indicate the rallying point or any group holding a common cause.” [ISBE, Banner, 409]
We are all familiar with the usage of banners to identify groups and causes. A lighter example would be home team sports colors, uniforms and logos. A more serious example (as in this passage) is war, as seen in movie depictions or iconic art pieces (e.g. Planting The Flag on Iwo Jima). As God’s people, however, our Banner is ultimately not a piece of cloth nor a symbol, but the LORD Himself.
What or who do you tend to look to in the midst of extended difficulty or struggle?
Are there areas where you feel mentally or physically exhausted and the temptation to give up, settle, or to keep fighting by yourself/for yourself?
Let’s turn to the LORD as we worship to the song “Way Maker”by Sinach (cover by Leeland):
Let’s pray: Lord, we look to You in the midst of various difficulties or struggles. You alone are our Banner. Our motivation, our reliance, our identity, our hope is found only in You today! In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Isaiah 25:7-8 (NIV)7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations;8 he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.
Take a look at this painting by John August Swanson, “Take Away the Stone.”
Note the beauty of the colors. Take a moment to reflect on how Jesus has removed the shroud of death from our lives. Jesus being the great I am, has compassion for you, sincerely cares for you. He is moved to tears for you. Let’s experience Jesus as the resurrection and the life today, as he wipes the tears from our faces. Our only response is to rejoice because of what he has done for us.
Let’s pray: Lord, you remove the shroud of death from our lives. We come to you today with the tears in our lives, and we receive your compassion once again. We confess that we do not have your tears for others as we should, but we ask that you would give us your tears for this generation. May others we are reaching out to experience you removing the shroud of death in their lives. May you wipe away their tears. In Jesus’ name, amen.
John 11:43-44 (NIV) 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
“Christ overwhelmed the grim scene of Lazarus’ grave with his own power, and he faced the specter of his own death with the confidence that the same power of God would rescue him from the grave. John 11 is thus a story designed to encourage us, to give us strength to face our own mortality (or the death of someone near to us) by virtue of the Lord whom we worship. Resurrection is not now a new principle imposed on human life; the Lord who is resurrection has now imposed life where there was only the prospect of death.” [NIVAC, John, 331]
This Jesus encounter encourages us in the face of difficulties and gives us the strength to face our mortality or our loved ones’. When a crisis hits, we may ask what we have done with our lives. May we bring our tough questions to Jesus.
Let’s pray: Lord, you are all-powerful. Forgive us for trying other ways to answer life’s tough questions. We bring these questions to you. We are in need of the Spirit’s power today. In Jesus’ name, amen.
John 11: 33,35,38-39 (NIV)33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39“Take away the stone,” he said.
“O church, your God is ‘outraged and troubled’ (v. 33) over you, coparticipating in your burdens by being angry and mournful at sickness, death, and sin. The ‘unmoved mover’ (Aristotle) is moved to tears for his people, the shepherd of his sheep (ch. 10). ‘We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin’ (Heb 4:15). Worship the Lord, all his people, for he has come to you, meeting you where you are in your difficulties, embracing the suffering you face just as fully as he embraces you.” [E. Klink III, ZECNT (Kindle)]
As we learned Sunday, Jesus approaches like a “wrestler preparing for a contest”, troubled by the effects of death on his loved ones. Church, he is outraged and troubled over us, meeting us where we are.
Let’s pray: Lord, how great is your compassion. Thank you for embracing us in the midst of our difficulties. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Let’s worship to the song “Here again” by Elevation Worship.
John 11:20-22 (NIV) 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
“In the person and work of Jesus, life is no longer bound by death, and death no longer may willfully intrude into life. Death is so impotent for the Christian that he or she can actually die and yet still live (v. 25)!..The Christian shouts with the apostle Paul: ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ (1 Cor 15:55). For this reason, sickness and death are no longer what they seem…According to the Gospel of John, Jesus is life. Therefore, the life of the Christian is no longer defined by his own living but by the life he has in Christ.” [E. Klink III, ZECNT (Kindle)].
Martha was faced with an impossible situation, her brother being dead for four days. But, she expresses faith in Jesus when all seemed hopeless. What are the areas in our lives that seem beyond repair? Let’s come to Jesus, who is life, and trust him.
Let’s pray: Lord, we confess our lack of faith. May we trust you with an “even now” faith with the difficult circumstances in our lives. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Let’s worship to the song “Way Maker” by Sinach (cover Leeland).
John 11:25 (NIV) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.
“The story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus is one of the great transition stories in the Gospels, for it sums up the meaning of Jesus’ ministry thus far as the Giver of Life and anticipates the death and resurrection of Jesus…This story proves the love of Jesus for his friends and the love of God for all of us…All the hopes of God’s people throughout history have focused on sharing the life of God and thereby defeating the power of sin and death, and here we see all that is centered on Jesus, who is “the resurrection and the life” (v. 25).” [G. Osborne, John Verse by Verse (Kindle)]
Jesus’ compassion for us led him to pay the ultimate price by dying on the cross for our sins. Through our union with Christ, death no longer has victory. Resurrection reality is not something that awaits us at the end of time. Let’s declare that the same power that will enable us to live for eternity is God’s same power in our lives today.
Let’s pray: Lord, you are the giver of life. Thank you for your compassion for us. May you fill us with your power and help us to live this resurrection reality today. In Jesus’ name, amen.
“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15.6)
“Genesis 15.6 became a foundational verse in the theology of the early church, especially in Paul’s writings… James uses it too, but for a different reason: to point out that Abraham’s righteousness, which came by faith alone, also resulted in works of faith (James 2.23). This kind of faith—the faith that justifies us but also produces righteousness in us—is the kind that, according to James, makes someone a friend of God.
“The assurance of the old promise comes after the announcement… ‘I am your shield, your very great reward’ (15.1)… the literal implication here is that God is the reward. It’s a personal commitment; God isn’t just giving Abram a son, many descendants, and land. He’s giving Abram himself. Abram’s focus at this point is clearly on the gifts rather than the Giver… Over time, Abram will learn that knowing God as a great Reward is better than experiencing him as a great Rewarder.” (A Walk Thru the Life of Abraham: Faith in God’s Promises, Baker Books)
Let’s pray: Lord, sometimes I get obsessed with the things that I want, things that I want to see happen in my life. May those things never get in the way of me becoming a friend of God. More than any reward, I desire you, the Great Rewarder…
Let’s worship and remain in the presence of our Great Rewarder. Let’s sing “To the One” (Upperroom) –
He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars —if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15.5)
“[T]he Lord ‘took’ Abram outside. The verb is active, almost forceful, as though He bodily picked up the man and set him in a clearing under the night sky… How many stars can a person in a rural area…see? Too many to count. That’s the point. The Lord used the night sky to illustrate the vastness of the nation that will bear Abram’s DNA… If he felt small surveying thousands of balls of fire spanning the heavens from horizon to horizon, then he grasped the Lord’s point: ‘I am God; you’re just a tiny speck compared to My universe. Trust Me; I’ve got your back.’ …Why did God’s words settle the matter for Abram? Because no one can argue with the One who made the stars. God’s omnipotence makes anything possible…” (C. Swindoll, Abraham: One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith)
If we’re being honest, many times our demands of God are so selfish, petty and short-sighted. God created the stars, planets and galaxies to illustrate his desire and competence to care for us. His plans for us are that awe-inspiring, vast and glorious.
Let’s pray: Father, as we live out our faith, may we “shine like stars” (Phil 2.15) in the midst of this dark and hopeless generation…
After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15.1)
“God frees the heart of Abram from fear. God exhorts Abram to be of a tranquil mind; but what foundation is there for such security, unless by faith we understand that God cares for us, and learn to rest in his providence? …Moreover, by the use of the word ‘shield,’ he signifies that Abram would always be safe under his protection. In calling himself his ‘reward,’ He teaches Abram to be satisfied with Himself alone.” (J. Calvin, Commentary on Genesis, vol 1)
Abram was not known to be a fearful person. In Genesis 14, he hunts down the armies of four powerful kings with a small militia in order to rescue his nephew and their families. We have fears that God alone can see. These fears stop us from fully trusting God and from fully living the abundant life. Fear of failure, of being alone, of losing a loved one, of not having control, of not being liked, of not having enough to be happy, etc. What is your greatest fear?
Let’s pray: Lord, may I hear your words today, “Stop being afraid.” You are the only one who can truly protect us from all harm. May I put my trust in you right now…
Let’s be assured of God’s protection over our lives. Let’s sing “Defender” (Upperroom) –