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


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


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


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


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