Devotions In Exodus

Always Ahead

Joseph was already in Egypt (Exodus 1:5).

Lord God, You are always ahead of Your people.  When the sons of Jacob had to enter Egypt to survive a famine, You were there with Joseph to spread a welcome mat.  You had worked with good and evil to prepare their salvation.

Lord Jesus, the angel who announced Your resurrection said, "He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee."  Always You are ahead of us, preparing the way.  The future may be our surprise but it's Your plan.

To the disciples You recruited, Lord Jesus, You simply said, "Follow me."  They didn't know where the path of obedience would lead, but they knew the Leader.

That is enough for me, Lord.  My times are in Your hands.  I do not ask a road map for the journey, for I am promised Your presence and that is better than detailed knowledge of the miles ahead.  I could miss even a marked trail if left on my own.  With You as Leader and Companion I shall arrive on time at my chosen destination and achieve my assigned task enroute.

Growing In Bloody Soil

The more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied              (Exodus 1:12).

Lord, how frustrating this must have been to Pharaoh.  All his chest pounding and muscle flexing failed to retard the growth of Israel.  How often, too, the Church has experienced its most rapid growth when planted in bloody soil!

The gates of Hades cannot prevail against the Church You are building, Lord Jesus.  Persecution is a futile strategy, as Herod learned--and Saul, and Nero, and Hitler, and Stalin, and Mao Zedong. Enduring persecution and martyrdom, Your people not only survive, they thrive.

A disobedient church is self-destructive, but an obedient church can triumph over the severest attacks of its strongest enemies.  Within my own lifetime, Lord, many God-hating tyrants have been toppled from their thrones.  Your righteous judgments are invincible.  I'm glad that I belong to the Kingdom that cannot be shaken.  Make me a worthy citizen, I pray.

 Moral Heroism

 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt told them to do (Exodus. 1:17).

 I admire those midwives, Lord, who refused to become baby-killers at a king's command.  All it takes today for many doctors to become wealthy by slaying babies in the wombs of mothers is congressional and court permission.

Here, Lord, is the first record of civil disobedience in Scripture.  It teaches me that there are times when obedience to You requires disobedience to human authorities.  Reasons that are merely personal or trivial will not justify such civil disobedience, but when human laws collide with divine laws, then I must obey You, not man--and take the consequences.

How fortunate for all history was the moral heroism of those ancient midwives!  Their courageous defiance of a tyrant’s orders was more than justified by the career and influence of Moses.

I need a double portion of their spirit.  To do half the good they did, I need to be twice the man I am.

The Unhidden

 ...when she could hide him no longer… (Exodus 2:3).

 Dead men are easy to hide, Lord, as those know who bumped off Jimmy Hoffa.  But live babies--that's quite another story.

I don't know that because I tried to hide any, but when I recall the vigor with which our five cried at times, I am sure the neighbors would easily have detected their existence.

The dead can be hidden, not the living.  A community can ignore a dead church, not a living one.  A dead church disturbs no one, threatens no one--but a living church provokes opposition for it reproves sin and celebrates salvation.  Both activities provoke the wrath of evil men.

Some early disciples were accused of turning the world upside down.  They were a joyful band of witnesses to Your transforming grace.  That rankled the nerves and jeopardized the profits of greedy merchants, corrupt politicians and oppressive religionists.  The enemies of the Cross tried in vain to silence those witnesses, but babes in Christ cannot be hidden.

Lord, let me be a disturber of the devil's peace.

Love's Sacrifice

She took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son (Exodus 2:10).

How great was Jochebed's love, Lord!  She gave up her son to save his life.  The loveless edict of a murderous ruler was a total contrast to this mother's love-inspired sacrifice.  How ironic that her babe became the adopted grandson of the king whose law, strictly applied, would have caused that baby's death. How wonderful that the mother whose cunning saved the babe's life should have the opportunity to train him during the formative years of childhood.  I praise Your wisdom, Lord God, for You make human wrath the servant of divine love.

If the love of Jochebed was great, Lord, how much greater is Your love.  You gave up Your Son's life to save our souls.  When He was committed to the waters of death, no Father's scheme, no woman's love spared Him from the ordeal.  He died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to You.  "This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 4:10).

A Godlike Man

Moses got up and came to their rescue (Exodus 2:17).

How compassionate, how courageous, how Christlike!

Against heavy odds, and for complete strangers, Moses defended the helpless daughters of Jethro.

To champion the oppressed is godlike.  In this very passage, Lord, I read that "God heard the groaning" of Hebrew slaves.  Nothing gets Your attention quicker than a groan.

Those who cry to You from helpless and hurting circumstances have always found a champion both merciful and mighty.

Where injustice prevails, Lord, help me to side with its victims.  Too often the leaders of churches have sided with the oppressors, justifying their cruelty and condemning their victims.

The widows, the orphans, the slaves, the hungry, the sick, the lost--these were the persons You championed and rescued time after time.  Persons filled with Your love cannot turn deaf ears to their groans.

The "divine right of kings" has been history's slander upon Your name, Lord.  The human right of the sufferers is Your concern.  May it be mine also!

Workers Wanted

Moses was tending the flock...God called to him... (Exodus 3:1, 4).

Lord, You do not call idlers to be leaders.  You recruit as Your servants those who are busily engaged at other tasks.

I see this illustrated in Your ministry, Lord Jesus.  You did not call those who were self-indulgent and trivial.  You recruited fishermen and accountants, interrupting their toil with Your challenge, "Follow me."

Lord, I sat for years on boards that examined licensed ministers.  Those with backgrounds of idleness and reputations for loafing rarely succeeded as ministers. Indeed, I know of none within my personal observation.  Across the years, Lord, I saw more preachers fail for want of industry than for lack of talent, education, or skill.

A man doing nothing by choice will not hear Your summons to service.  He needs to hear Your call to repentance.

Lord, I pray again--"Give me work till the end of my life and life till the end of my work."  Let living and working be synonymous.

The Hallowing Presence

The place where you are standing is holy ground (Exodus 3:5).

Lord, it was Your presence that sanctified the spot.  The ground was not holy because Moses stood there. Where You confront a person to save from sin or to summon to service, there is holy ground.

I praise You for the Friday night, many years ago, when an unpaved intersection, fronted by vacant lots, became a hallowed bit of ground. There You heard my cry for mercy and forgave my sins.

Across the years there have been other places suddenly invested with peculiar sanctity as You confronted me with assignments to work and assurances of help.

Your presence has been more real than all I could see, hear, and touch.  It impacted my life more profoundly and permanently than anyone or anything else ever has.  For every "burning bush" encounter I praise Your name.

The Involved

I have come down to rescue them (Exodus 3:8).

I praise You, Lord, that You are not an aloof spectator of human affairs, but an involved participant.

You said to Moses, "I have seen...I have heard...I am concerned...I have come down..." You are not in the stands but on the playing field.  You are not issuing orders from the safety of rear lines, You are in the thick of the battle.  Yours is the only kind of leadership that deserves a following.

In Moses, You were recruiting someone to share Your involvement despite personal risk and past failures.  More important to You than his track record was the level of his caring and daring.

You called me by name, Lord.  You compelled me to see and hear and care that people are lost.  You gave me a ministry that was more exciting than war and more rewarding than wealth.

How far You came down, how deeply You got involved, is measured by the incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus, Your only Son, Your eternal Word.  You touched bottom for us that we might ascend to the utmost height with You.

O, Lord, make me more like You!

The Wrong Question

Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh? (Exodus 3:11).

Moses made a common mistake, Lord.  He laid the yardstick of personal assets alongside the task and lost heart.  He seemed so small, the challenge so great.  He might have been willing to tackle the merely difficult, but not the downright impossible.

He was reckoning without You.  He was responding with logic, not with faith.  He was overlooking what he had just looked over:  God can set aflame a common bush without consuming it.  Natural consequences can be negated by supernatural power.

I know how how Moses felt.  I faced a challenge that seemed foolish to undertake and impossible to achieve.  And I remember the evening, during my agony of decision-making, when I sat with my faculty colleagues and listened to a brief devotional message by Frank Carver.  "Moses put the question wrongly," Dr. Carver told us.  "He should have asked, not who am I but Whose am I."

That settled it.  I went to the task and You went with me. I did what I couldn't do, to Your praise and glory.

The Bracer

And God said, I will be with you (Exodus 3:12).

Lord, You called one man, a man sadly lacking in self-esteem, to confront the political and military might of Egypt.  If his knees quaked and his heart pounded at the challenge,  that's easy to understand.  Whose wouldn't?"

But You braced him with the promise of Your presence.  When You say, "I will be with you," You are offering maximum authority and security.  With You beside him--and inside him--the weakest man may dare the hardest task in the face of the largest obstacles.  It has been well said that one man with God is a majority.

Moses teaches me, Lord, that doubt is not overcome by being a braver man but by trusting a bigger God.

When I realize how great You are, all that threatens me quickly shrinks to its true size.  I lose my fears, not because I become a bolder person, but because I am environed by the Almighty. Your presence braces me for the work You assign.

I Am

I am who I am (Exodus 3:14).

Lord God, I hear You say frequently, "I am..." You never say, "I was..." You are the present, living God, as truly and mightily at work today as You were yesterday.

You are always the "I am."  You are never the once-was.  Men become has-beens, not You.  Our strength declines and fails, but Yours is eternal.  We have to relinquish our work to others, but You will never become a retired spectator, looking on as other hands carry on what You began.

You described yourself as "the God of your fathers" who would be remembered "from generation to generation."  Your people lived under a succession of human rulers, but You have no predecessors, no successors.  Your name is "I am" forever.

O, great "I am," Eternal God, You bind within yourself all times, all events, all persons, all things.  You keep what was, and is, and shall be related to each other.  You are Source, Sustainer, and Synthesizer of everything.

"I am"--what a name!  What a God!

The Outstretched Hand

I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians (Exodus 3:20).

When You strike a person or a nation, Lord, they know they've been struck.  Yours are not pitter-patter blows, but knockout punches.  You pack a wallop that puts Your enemies down for the count.

Sometimes You stretch out Your hand in judgment, sometimes in mercy.  Scripture speaks of Your hand outstretched to smite and outstretched to save.

When Israel escaped from Egypt they sang, "You right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power.  Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy" (15:6). By Your outstretched arm You "struck down" Egypt and "brought out" Israel (Ps. 136:10-12).

Whether You smite in judgment or heal in mercy is our choice, O Lord.  I am glad that I chose to receive Your mercy, though I deserved Your wrath.  Your outstretched hand lifted my burden of sin and guilt, liberating me to be Your child.  Praise Your name!

Big Help for Little Speakers

I am slow of speech.... I will help you speak... (Exodus 4:10-12)

Lord, excuses come readily when we focus on our weaknesses instead of on Your power.  Except for Your power the excuses would often be valid. The glib may think of Moses' plea as a shallow dodge, but those of us who dreaded public speaking and even found conversation difficult can deeply sympathize with him.

But when You say, "I will help you speak," all excuses become inexcusable.  You who made the mouth can enable its effective use.  Furthermore, words stammered with Your help are more convincing than human eloquence.  Flowery speech impresses the shallow-minded, but plain speech, urgent and honest, is the best carrier of Your messages.

Lord, I praise You for helping the slow of speech to bear witness effectively.  That help has made my ministry possible and fruitful.  Had it not been for Your merciful help my first year as a preacher would have been my last.  Now, after 50 years I am still preaching.

Someone Else

O Lord, please send someone else to do it (Exodus 4:13).

"Once bitten, twice shy."  That old saw applied to Moses, Lord.  On his own he struck a blow for Israel's rights and became a fugitive as the consequence.  Having tasted the king's wrath and his own people's ingratitude, he would prefer the safety and serenity of the desert to the onerous task of liberating Israel.

How slowly we volunteer ourselves, Lord!  How quickly we recommend others.  Much of the work of Your Church is retarded by our "Let George do it" attitude.  The Church is neither George nor genius-filled.  It's comprised of ordinary folks with a modest array of talents.  If these won't respond to Your call, the mission drags when it should fly.

Lord, what an exciting and fulfilling life I would have missed had I not abandoned the Moses syndrome--"send someone else"--for the Isaiah response--"here am I, send me."  You have been with me, faithfully and forgivingly dealing with my weakness, ignorance, and blunders, and making me an instrument of Your purpose, a channel of Your blessings.  Thank You for a holy, happy, helpful life!

Staff or Serpent?

He took the staff of God in his hand (Exodus 4:20).

You asked Moses, "What is that in your hand?"  In Your service a person must start where he is and use what he has.  Moses replied, "A staff."

Thrown down, the staff became a snake from which Moses fled. Taken up, it became a staff again.  The difference between threat and tool is consecration to Your work.

What I consecrate to You is no longer mine but Yours--"the staff of God."  From then on You are responsible for preserving and using it.  When what is mine becomes Yours its utility and value are maximized.  With that simple staff Moses called down plagues and opened the Sea of Reeds, thus liberating the people of Israel.

How little I had in my hand when I began to serve You!  But how wondrously You blessed my little to achieve much.  I praise You that it was a means of good and not a menace to good.  My heart wants to sing, "Little is much when God is in it."

God Wills Freedom

The God of Israel says, "Let my people go" (Exodus 5:1).

Lord God, You are opposed to all that oppresses, and thus depresses, Your people.  Liberation is Your purpose for human life, a purpose slowly realized because You work in history and through persons.

"Let my people go" is Your word to sin, to disease, to ignorance, to hunger, to poverty, to oppression of every kind.  You have raised up prophets, healers, teachers, farmers, and industrialists to implement Your will.  I bless You for all who valued freedom and sacrificed to bring its benefits to others.  I am the beneficiary of so many!

Because sin is the ultimate bondage and salvation the greatest freedom, I especially praise You for all who had a part in bringing me to Jesus.  And I praise You for allowing me a small part in reaching others for Him.  My life could not have been more wisely or happily spent.

Pharaoh scornfully asked, "Who is the Lord that I should obey him?"  He learned that those who asked in arrogance are answered with judgment.  I learned that those who ask in penitence are answered with mercy.

"Bless the Lord, O my soul!"

Satan's Decree

Make the work harder (Exodus 5:9).

Lord, You assign work according to our strength.  The devil assigns work according to his cruelty.  You never overwork or underpay Your servants.  Satan always does both.

History is replete with vicious slave bosses.  They evidence the fallen and evil condition of human nature in graphic manner.

I remember reading a letter from John Wesley to a preacher, in which he said, "If you are doing enough to injure your health, you are doing more than God wants you to do."  I wish every preacher was wise enough to realize that You are not a slave driver.

You match work to a person's strength, and strength to a person's work.  Where a workload cannot be diminished, strength will be increased.

In Your life, Lord Jesus, there was a wise alternation of activity and withdrawal.  Help me to adopt Your pattern, and not allow my work to become destructive.  Doing good things can have bad results if a man becomes enslaved to schedules and pressures and expectations that menace health.  Help me not to be foolish.  I would be Your faithful servant, for You are a considerate Master.

Blaming God

You have not rescued your people at all (Exodus 5:23).

Lord, I know how Moses felt.  Things had gotten worse, not better.  Pharaoh was unrelenting and Israel was unappreciative.  Moses was catching the devil from all sides, and You seemed to be doing nothing to help.  I've been in that situation and wrestled with the same moods of doubt and self-pity.

Lord, we too readily assume that what You have not done You will not do.  In our folly we strip Your promise of validity.  When we are criticized and blamed, we criticize and blame You.  What shortsighted creatures we are!  You patiently repeated Your promise to Moses: "Now you will see what I will do."

Moses had to learn what I sometimes forget, that You make Your own schedule and You are never late.  You come "with grace to help in time of need."

Lord, look upon me in patience and pity.  When I complain, "You have not...," hush my foolish heart with Your bracing, "I will do."  Teach me that "now" is Your decision, not mine.

Liberated and Adopted

I will free you from being slaves...I will take you as my own people...(Exodus 6:6-7).

To be liberated is a priceless boon, Lord.  To also be adopted is truly "icing on the cake."  The depth and breadth and length of Your love overwhelms me.

How humble You are, Lord, to risk Your name with an undeserving and oft-failing people.  Just this week I read of a couple who returned a disappointing, recalcitrant child to the adoption agency.  Did You ever feel like that when Israel profaned Your name by their idolatry and immorality?

Lord Jesus, do You ever feel like disowning the Church when it belies the holiness of Your name?

That You loved me, freed me from sin's slavery, and adopted me into Your family is amazing beyond description, Lord.  That You have borne patiently and forgivingly with my failures to live up to my adopted name is even more amazing.  I pray earnestly today, "Hallowed be Your name. Your will be done."  Let me express in grateful obedience my joy in being Your child.

Promised Land

I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give... (Exodus 6:8).

Men have often sworn to do what they never intended to do.  The lie in their hearts surfaced upon their lips.  Many others, Lord, have sworn with good intentions but lacked the resources to fulfill their oaths.  You give Your word honestly and fulfill it completely.  Your love, power, and wisdom make promise and fulfillment one.

You swore by yourself, Lord, for there was none greater to swear by.  Your oath could not be more certain.

To undeserving Israel You pledged the land of Canaan.  To a people no better than Israel You have promised "a better country" than Canaan.

There, with the lies of mankind forever erased, and the truth of God forever enthroned, redeemed sinners shall rejoice in unbroken communion.  What Your uplifted hand has pledged, Your uplifting hand will provide.  I, even I, will be there, to the glory of Your grace.

One Reason

Why would Pharaoh listen to me? (Exodus 6:30).

Lord, there’s only one reason why any person should listen to any preacher--that he bears Your word.  His own opinions do not oblige me to listen to my pastor; that he expounds Your creative and redemptive word does.  When I preach, I'm not in the pulpit to plump some political or social agenda, but to proclaim Your word.  On no other basis can I claim the attention and assent of my listeners.

You said to Moses, "I am the Lord.  Tell...everything I tell you."  The obligation to speak Your word rests upon the divine mandate, not upon the human response.  Whether hearers accept or reject the message, I am bound to proclaim it because You have ordered it so.

I am to preach Your word, not because I am wanted, but because Your word is needed.  Moses could not refuse to speak because Pharaoh would refuse to listen.  Your word demands telling, and by it all will be judged in truth and righteousness.                  Lord, help me to faithfully speak Your word and leave reactions and results to You.

"Say Everything I Command"

You are to say everything I command you (Exodus 7:2).

Moses was not free to devise his own message, Lord, and neither am I.  What You command, not what I desire, must form the cause and content of my message.  "The Lord says" is my license, not "I think" or "I believe."  I herald a given word, a God-given word, and I am bound to it.

Father, I am bound to all of it.  "Everything" that You command, not selected pieces of it, must be proclaimed.

I know, Lord, how strongly Your spokesman can be tempted to edit the message, lest some truth offend the sensibilities of others or jeopardize the preacher's own safety.  When Paul summed up his ministry to the Ephesians, he could say, "I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God" (Acts 20:27).  Only thus was he "innocent of the blood of all men."

At the cost of alienating even my family and friends, grant me courage to proclaim the entire gamut of Scripture's teaching.

Tragic Hardening

I will harden Pharaoh's heart  (Exodus 7:3).

Lord, I perceive that hearts are hardened as mud is hardened--by light shining upon them.  The same sunshine that melts one substance will harden another.  The light of Your word thaws or hardens, saves or damns, according to the response of those who hear the word.

You desire "all men to be saved," but You compel no one to be saved.  We can receive the word or reject the word and You forever respect the freedom You have given us to say yes or no.

I remember, Lord Jesus, how You wept over Jerusalem, saying, "I would...you would not."  We can oppose our wills to Your will, but when we do a terrible hardening quickly takes place.

You harden men's hearts by sending the light, by speaking Your word.  The hearing we give it determines our spiritual condition, our eternal destiny.

Grant me a receptive, contrite, trusting heart when Your messenger stands and speaks!

Two Schools, One Lesson

And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it (Exodus 7:5).

Israel came to Egypt by invitation and were kept in Egypt under duress.  You would free them, Lord, at heavy cost to their captors.  A throne would be emptied, an army destroyed, before Your people began their march to freedom.  Egypt would learn that You are the Lord, but in that school of experience the tuition would be high.

Your outstretched hand meant salvation for some, destruction for others.  People must learn through judgment what they refuse to learn through mercy.  Learn they will, one way or the other.  Your word tells us that the time is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue confess, that "Jesus is Lord."  The obeisance will be made joyfully by those who were schooled in mercy, grudgingly by those who were schooled in judgment--but it will be made.

You have two schools and one lesson.  Let me learn in the classroom named mercy.

First Miracles

I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood (Exodus 7:21).

Lord, Moses turned water into blood.  Jesus turned water into wine.  The first miracle wrought by Moses was a judgment.  The first wrought by Jesus was a mercy.  That by Moses issued in death; that by Jesus was a symbol of life.

Both were wrought by divine power through human agency.  Both utilized common things--a shepherd's staff, some clay jars.  That teaches me, Lord, that You are both Savior and Judge.  It teaches me, too, that nature is sacramental, the stuff of revelation.  And it further teaches me that You can achieve extraordinary results using ordinary instruments.

When Moses smote the Nile, "Blood was everywhere in Egypt."  There is no security against Your judgments, Lord.  No man can hide anywhere from You for You are everywhere.

Jesus wrought His miracle in a tiny town at a simple wedding feast for unnamed persons.  Your mercies, like your judgments, are everywhere.  No place is remote enough, no person is obscure enough, to be overlooked by You.

Too Much

I will plague your whole country with frogs (Exodus 8:2).

Contrary to an old saying, Lord, one can get too much of a good thing.  Frogs are okay in proper places and in right numbers.  They help control fly populations--and their hoppers, nicely fried, are delicious.  But when no house, no bedroom, and no cooking facilities are frogless, that's too much.  When frogs forsake the riverbanks and lily pads to cling to people, from rulers to commoners, that's too much.

To the obedient You say, "I will bless..." To the disobedient You say, "I will plague..." The believing are rewarded, the unbelieving are reproved.  In both cases the "I will" is sovereignly determinant.  We are back to the truth that people learn that You are Lord, either taught by mercy or by judgment.  The responsive heart pays less tuition than does the hardened heart--and learns a happier lesson.

Lord, keep the frogs in the swamp and let me be a student of Your merciful kindness.

Now or Never

"Tomorrow," Pharaoh said (Exodus 8:10).

Pharaoh promised, "Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away...and I will let your people go..." But, Lord, a man unable to pray is unlikely to obey.  He reneged on his word and resorted to a hoary stall--"tomorrow."

When You say "today" it is folly for a person to reply, "tomorrow."  Deferred obedience is a form of disobedience.  It deceives few but it destroys many.  Procrastination has been called "the thief of time."  It is also the murderer of souls.

Lord, "today" is Your language.  "The Holy Spirit says, Today..." Pharaoh said, "Tomorrow," and he was soon destroyed.  Felix said, "a more convenient time," and never found it.  Certain Greek fat-chewers said, "We will hear you again," but Paul left town.  When You say "now" the person who counters with "later" is risking his soul.

Lord, I can't recall a demand to repent or a promise to save that incorporates "tomorrow."  Grant me wisdom to promptly respond to Your word, to order my life by Your calendar and schedule.  "Now" too easily becomes "never."

The One And Only

... there is no one like the Lord our God (Exodus 8:10).

Ancient pagan gods were monotonously alike.  They were handmade and store-bought.  They could not think or speak or act.  The sat helpless when their devotees prayed and praised.  They neither cared nor shared nor dared.

But You, Lord, are the one, true, holy, and living God.  You answer prayer and promote Your people's highest welfare by "mighty acts" of redemption and judgment.

There were none like You in ancient Egypt, where gods were as thick as fleas in a kennel yard.  There are none like You in modern America, where the idolatry of the "in-thing" is rampant.  You alone are Creator and Savior.  Your alone will be Judge.  All that finally matters is our relationship to You.

There is none like You for love that saves or for wrath that punishes.  This Moses knew and this Pharaoh learned--but he learned too late.  He had gods of stone and a heart to match.  They couldn't help him and he wouldn't help himself.  His crown adorned stupidity.

Lord, I humbly rejoice that You, the One and Only, are my God.

Dust Into Gnats

 The dust will become gnats (Exodus 8:16).

Tiny things can become giant troubles, Lord.  I lived where gnats abounded and they nearly drove me crazy at times.  What must it have been like when ancient Egypt was plagued with them!  Men and beasts had no rest from the pesky creatures.  You can't swat them, but you can bang yourself up trying.

I recall preaching in Georgia when a gnat decided to explore my throat.  I couldn't cough it up or swallow it down.  I couldn't keep speaking but wouldn't stop trying.  It wrecked the sermon and ruined the service.  I try to imagine that frustration multiplied by millions to gain some insight into the misery and havoc caused by the plague of gnats.

Lord, when You chasten a person or a people You have an adequate number and variety of means to enhance their grief.  Those who challenge You are fighting a losing battle.  At Your command the smallest weapons can fell the largest opponents.

And just think--the flies took over where the gnats left off.  Wow!  Thy will be done--I can't take the gnats.

God's Finger

The magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God" (Exodus 8:19).

Three other times in Your word, O God, I read of the work of Your fingers.  According to the psalmist, the heavens are "the work of your fingers" (8:3). Jesus said, "I drive out demons by the finger of God" (Luke 11:20). Your covenant with Israel was "inscribed by the finger of God" upon "tablets of stone" (Exod. 31:18).

The phrase speaks of Your work as Creator, Redeemer, and Legislator.  It accents Your power, against which no earthly ruler can long stand in rebellion.  It carries, also, overtones of Your love and wisdom, which are perfect.

Your "finger" was recognized by baffled magicians in ancient Egypt, by an adoring psalmist in Israel, by Jesus in century one.  How tragic that millions today are blind to what You have done and are doing in the world!

I am reminded, Lord, of the papal legate who threatened Luther, boasting that the Pope's little finger was mightier than the armed forces of all Luther's protectors.  Luther remained undaunted.  He was in Your hands, and he had read in nature, Scripture, and Jesus Christ of "the finger of God."  Let me, too, find my security and peace there.

Clean Break

I will let you go...but you must not go very far (Exodus 8:28).

Lord, the devil fears a clean break with sin.  He doesn't mind us having religion if it keeps us within his reach.  If it's morality without love, he dances for joy.  A set of rules that leaves the heart unchanged suits him nicely.  Such moralism and legalism were major factors in the crucifixion of Jesus.  It was the world--politically, culturally, and religiously--that hounded Him to a cross.  Shallow religion serves the devil's purpose better than no religion at all.

How to serve You without offending the devil is the careful quest of cowardly "Christians."  You said, "I will make a distinction between my people and your people."  Blurring that distinction is the constant temptation of Your people.  To gain acceptance, to avoid persecution, we are urged by inner and outer voices not to go very far in our devotion to You, in our commitment to Your kingdom's work.

Help me to break clean with sin, to love and serve You wholeheartedly.  I've never seen anyone helped or bettered by moral compromise.

A Mighty Intercessor

The Lord did what Moses asked (Exodus 8:31).

Moses was one of the greatest intercessors of all time.  He prayed often and earnestly for undeserving people in desperate straits. Your mercy was channeled through those prayers.

Moses prayed, and You terminated the plagues of frogs, flies, hail, and locusts, sparing Egypt from total ruin.  He prayed, and You gave to Israel food from heaven and water from a rock.  He prayed, and You healed Miriam of leprosy, gave victory to Israel's warriors, and forgave the sins of Your erring people.  That is effective intercession.

I know one secret of his power in prayer, Lord.  I read that "Moses did everything just as the Lord commanded him" (40:16).  From this I conclude that You honor the prayers of those who honor Your precepts.  I know that prevailing prayer is a matter of faith, but I know, too, that faith doesn't grow in the soil of disobedience.

You heard the man who heard You.  When You commanded, he obeyed.  When he prayed, You answered.  Even I cannot miss so obvious a lesson!  Having learned it, help me to practice it.

The Worst Is Coming

I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt (Exodus 9:18).

"I will send."  "Nature" doesn't make laws. It obeys them.  The forces of nature are at Your disposal, Lord.  From time to time You suspend the regular order of natural events, that nature may serve Your purposes.  Those who deny miracles may posit a great universe, but they conceive a puny god.

"The worst hailstorm..." All are bad, some are worse.  Even the worse can be topped.  This reminds me, Lord, that things can get worse.  If people will not quit their sins and enter Your service, things will get worse.  "The worst is yet to come" --a terrifying final judgment that will assign every person to a place of eternal destiny.  In the words of an old song, "I want to be ready."

When the hailstorm of final judgment falls, Lord, only the Cross will be a refuge.  Your atoning death is all that saves us from eternal death.  I have entered that refuge by faith.  Lord, keep me there, I pray.

Futile Confession

"I have sinned".... he sinned again... (Exodus 9:27, 34).

Pharaoh is a classic example, Lord, of the difference between repentance and remorse.  The remorseful will admit their guilt, but only the repentant will quit their sins.  Insincere confession brings no forgiveness.  You have conditioned pardon upon turning from sin, not upon weeping over its consequences.  Feeling bad is no substitute for quitting evil.

Pharaoh said, "This time I have sinned...The Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong."  The hailstorm that wrung from him this confession was the seventh plague You brought upon Egypt.  He does not say, "Every time I have sinned," but "This time..." Obviously, he didn't think You were always right.  He was afraid of the consequences of his sin, not ashamed of having sinned.

Those who do not repent will soon repeat their sins.  "He sinned again..." and continued to sin against You until he died in the closed waters of the Sea of Reeds.  The explanation is terse:  "Pharaoh's heart was hard."  The stony heart was the weight that drowned him.

Lord, bring the rulers and people of this nation to repentance.  Remorse is not enough.

I Want Them to Know

...you may tell your children and grandchildren..."(Exodus 10:2).

Ah, Lord, happy is the man who has miracles to relate to his children and grandchildren.  Blessed are the descendants who have such a heritage.

My children and grandchildren have heard some, but not all, of the miracles You have wrought in my career--and before them in my own heart.  Grant me time and strength, Lord, and I will record and publish them before I die.

Before I reach my dotage, Lord, I want to secure my anecdotage as a witness to You.  I want my children and grandchildren to know how gracious and faithful You have been to me.

I want them to know that the minor miracles in my life were grounded upon the major miracles in the life of Jesus Christ--the Incarnation and Resurrection.  I want them to know that everything I experienced was the gift of Your grace, not a reward for my work.  I want them to know about me in order that they may know about You, the true and living God.

Everyone And Everything

Have only the men go, and worship the Lord (Exodus 10:11).

"Who will be going?" asked Pharaoh.  "Young and old...sons and daughters...flocks and herds...not a hoof is to be left behind..." was the answer.

Serving You is a family affair, O Lord, or should be.  Your kingdom bars no one, Your gospel invites all.  But what if some family members refuse to leave their "Egypt" to serve You?  Alas, those who honor You can only grieve and pray and hope for those who refuse Your grace.  I know that heartbreak and hope, Lord.

Serving You is not only a family matter, it is a total commitment.  Nothing that is ours can be withheld from You--"not a hoof is to be left behind."  Really, Your redeemed people are stewards, not owners.  They hold all assets subject to Your requisition and use.  Serving You does not make us fanatics, but it does make us radicals.  We yield ourselves and all we have to Your will.

Lord, I offer anew to You myself, my family, my possessions.

Amazing Oneness

I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you... (Exodus 10:16).

Lord, You are closely identified with Your people.  None can sin against You without sinning against them.  None can serve You without serving them.  As a friend of mine used to say, the vice is versa.

Isaiah said of Your relationship to Israel, "In all their distress he too was distressed" (63:9).  You shared the troubles of Your afflicted people, You did not view them from afar.

Lord Jesus, when Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the Church, You suffered with them.  From heaven You said to him, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 26:15).  Your compassion is literal, O blessed Savior.

Lord Jesus, You declared that what is done for Your people is done for You, and what is refused to them is refused to You.  This is the basis upon which "the sheep" will be separated from "the goats" at the final judgment.

O Lord, this amazing oneness staggers my thoughts.  Such love is beyond comprehension.  Where I cannot analyze, I do adore.  Let me share with others what I so admire in You.

Light Or Darkness

Total darkness covered all Egypt.... Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived (Exodus 10:22-23).

Lord, at Creation You separated light from darkness (Gen. 1:1).

In bringing judgment upon Pharaoh, to effect the release of Israel, You separated light from darkness.

You declared that the world was condemned because "men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).

In Jesus, You "rescued us from the dominion of darkness" and qualified us "to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light" (Col. 1:12-13).

Our conversion to Christ is described in Your Word as the exchange of darkness for light (1 John 1:8-9).

The destiny of Your people is a City of Light (Rev. 21:23-25).  That of Your enemies is "outside, into the darkness" (Matt. 22:13).

God, You are light.  Darkness is Your antithesis.  You are always separating light from darkness.  Do so in me!  Help me to walk always in the light.

Light or darkness is our choice, now and forever.  I choose light.

A Foolish Command

Pharaoh said to Moses, "Get out of my sight!" (Exodus 10:29).

Pharaoh's command was a waste of words, Lord.  One cannot escape judgment by dismissing the messenger of judgment.  Before exiting the palace Moses announced Your final plague upon the flint-hearted ruler:  "Every first-born son in Egypt will die."  At what awful cost do men rebel against You, O Lord.

Moses, striding from the scene “hot with anger," was a visible symbol of Your holy wrath against sin.  This is the worst of all judgments--the death that ensues when You have departed.

Moses could get out of Pharaoh's sight, but Pharaoh could not get out of Your sight.  No man's sins go unnoticed.  No man's refusal to repent goes unpunished.  The arrogant dismissal of Your messengers is a descent into darkness and death.

Lord, I thank You for the messengers who rebuked my sins, who called me to repentance, who promised me forgiveness, who commended to me the Christ of Calvary.  To them I owe a measureless debt.  For them You shall have my endless praise.

Calendar Change

This month is to be for you the first month of your year (Exodus 12:2).

Israel's new life required a new calendar, Lord.  Liberation from Egyptian bondage meant a radical new start, to be celebrated annually as New Year's day.

Life begins with redemption, Lord.  Until a person is made alive in Christ, he is dead in sins.  He may sin with great energy and endurance, active to the point of being hyperactive in his pursuit of sin's pleasures, but he bears a coffined soul within his busy body.

Life, true life, eternal life, begins with Jesus.  He forms a new creation, the old passes, the new begins.  Individual life, like history, is divided into B. C. and A. D.  Lord, I found this true one night, long years ago.  The change You wrought in my life has impacted every day, every choice, every evaluation, every relationship since.

The life that begins with Jesus never ends.  Like the path of the righteous, it shines with increasing brightness until the full light of day is reached--in the city where night never comes.

You are my life and light, O Lord!

Hurry Along!

Eat it in haste; it is the Lord's passover (Exodus 12:11).

Israel had no time to waste, Lord.  Escaping from Egypt had become a now or never situation.  The passover feast was a meal "on the run" for people girded for sudden and serious travel.  Judgment was coming upon "all the gods of Egypt."  Israelites could flee to freedom or share the judgment.  The choice was crucial, the time was short, the issue was life or death.

This brief scripture reminds me, Lord, that a person cannot leave sin too soon or too swiftly.  When You call sinners to repentance and offer them freedom and new life, there is no time to lose.  There is a special and unmistakable urgency in the language of Your call. "Come now..."  "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts..."  "Now is the day of salvation..."  "Choose this day whom you will serve..."

As the angels hurried Lot's family out of Sodom, so Your word hastens sinners from a doomed existence to a new life.  Dragging one's feet could mean the destruction of one's soul.

Lord, I never cease to be glad that I heard and heeded and hurried from death to life.

Invincible Savior

I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt (Exodus 12:12).

The one, true, living God was triumphant over all the false gods.  Gods made by hand could be trampled underfoot.  Dumb, blind, lifeless idols were helpless to avert Your "destructive plague."  They could only sit in silent impotence with unchanged expressions as You acted to redeem Your people from their cruel bondage.

Lord, when You intervened to graciously liberate me from sin, all the evil forces that had enslaved and degraded me were suddenly impotent and immobile.  Not a dog barked in protest as You lifted from me the burden of sin and guilt and hurled it into oblivion.  As Wesley wrote,

My chains fell off; my heart was free.

I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Glorious freedom was mine, and all the gods of Egypt were judged.

Almighty, invincible Savior, I praise You for Your compassionate conquest, for my undeserved salvation.

The Blood

When I see the blood, I will pass over you (Exodus 12:13).

You chose blood as the means of redemption, Lord, and this has been highly offensive to many people.  Judaism and Christianity have been scornfully dismissed as "slaughter house" religions.

Life is in the blood, as Your word affirms.  The shedding of blood, to the point of life given for another, is the highest expression of love, as Jesus taught and demonstrated.

You have placed great value upon a fallen creation, Lord, for You became man and gave Your perfect life as a ransom for sinners. You valued us far more than we valued ourselves.

Proud sinners do not want the blood of God's Lamb upon their door posts and lintels.  They prefer to trust in their own merits and achievements.  They would place their college degrees, their bank statements, their aristocratic genealogies, their bios in "Who's Who"--anything that exalts themselves.

But only the blood is acceptable to You--the highest value, the greatest love, the noblest sacrifice.  All who are not acceptable must perish.  The Cross saves, and nothing else.  I have taken refuge there.  I have "redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace."

Thank You, Lord!

Plunder

They plundered the Egyptians (Exodus 12:36).

They did not rob innocent victims, Lord.  They collected back wages.  Whatever the Egyptians gave them, these Israelites had more than earned by slave labor.  The "silver and gold and clothing" represented just reparation for long years of cruel treatment.

Furthermore, Lord, the poised-for-flight Israelites did not take these "spoils" by force or at their own initiative.  You directed them to ask and disposed the Egyptians to give.  Those who condemn the Israelites presume a higher ethic than Yours, one more demonstration of sin's arrogance.

When You delivered me from sin's bondage, Lord, I did not escape empty-handed.  I brought into my new life whatever was of true worth in my former life--all that was good in my heritage and history.  In my "Egypt" experience I accumulated certain knowledge, developed certain skills, and formed certain friendships that enhanced my usefulness as Your servant.

You are as wise as You are loving and powerful, Lord.  I praise You.  I praise You for what You brought me out of, and for what You brought me out with.

Initiative and Response

The Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 12:57).

Your power alone is sufficient for Your purposes, Lord.  Israel could never have escaped their bondage through their own resources and efforts.  They were helpless until You became their Help.  Their cries and groans were "help wanted" ads to which You responded in love and power.

You did not rescue them without their consent and cooperation, however.  They were not forced to become Your freed people.  They were not mysteriously "beamed up" from Egypt and "beamed down" in Canaan.  They had to march and fight and endure.  You wrought their deliverance in history and under human leadership.

Their consent and cooperation did not diminish Your grace nor enhance their merit.  Salvation for them remained both conditioned and undeserved.

O God, You gave Jesus Christ for us all, but You force Him upon none of us.  He is Your offering for sin, Your offer to sinners.  We can accept or reject that offer.

I do accept!  I daily accept.  His was a once-for-all sacrifice.  Mine is a day-by-day choice.

Commemoration, Proclamation

 

On that day tell your son, "I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt" (Exodus 13:8).

This passage teaches me grand truths about worship, Lord.

Worship is commemoration. I do not initiate worship.  It is not my effort to appease or manipulate You.  It is my response to Your gracious delivering action.  "I do...because...the Lord did..." Your acts precede mine, evoke mine, validate mine.

I worship each Lord's day with Your people because You acted in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ to deliver us from sin and to reconcile us to yourself.  The same truth determines my daily,  devotions.  Worship recalls and celebrates and appropriates Your mighty acts.

Worship is proclamation, too.  It tells others the story of salvation.  Not simply as a history lesson, as one might recount revolutionary war events, but as a means of bringing past into present as a here and now offer of deliverance.  Worship is witness and witness is gospel and gospel offers Christ to the unsaved.

Lord, the focus of worship is not my needs but Your deeds.  Help me to keep that straight.

The Desert Route

God led the people around by the desert road toward the            Red Sea (Exodus 13:18).

Lord God, You temper the route to the marchers' condition.  Your people, fleeing the Egyptians, were in no condition to battle the Philistines who barricaded a shorter route.  You do the impossible for Your people, Lord, but You do not expect the impossible from them.  Your wisdom is as full of mercy as Your mercy is of wisdom.

What are barriers to us are opportunities to You.  The Red Sea was impassable to the fleeing slaves, but You parted its waters and created a highway through the sea.

I've heard learned men explain away this miracle.  Had they half as much faith in Your power as in their scholarship, they would be great believers.  Their rationalizations are wasted breath that could be better spent cooling their soup.

When You lead, the route is wisely chosen and the goal is surely reached.  By what routes You select, Lord, lead me to yourself in heaven.  Get me home!

Armed For Battle

The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle (Exodus 13:18).

The redeemed life is a warfare, not a picnic, Lord.  You won the decisive battle and clinched the victory at a bloody cross and empty tomb.  But we who follow You must share the conflicts of the "mopping up operations."  Ours is a vicious, unrelenting enemy.

The gospel of ease preached by charlatans is unworthy of Your struggle and insulting to Your people.  Your word exhorts us to "put on the full armor of God"--not for parades but for battles against Satan and his minions.  Your word charges us to "Fight the good fight of the faith"--not to sit in unruffled calm and amuse ourselves with ancient war stories of yesterday's heroes.  They do inspire us; they don't exempt us.

My soul, be on they guard; / Ten thousand foes arise;

The hosts of sin are pressing hard / To draw thee from the skies.

Fight on, my soul, till death /  Shall bring thee to thy God;

He'll take thee, at thy parting breath, /  To His divine abode.

That's what I think and how I feel today, Lord.

An Oath Fulfilled

Moses took the bones of Joseph with him (Exodus 13:19).

Moses kept faith with the dead, Lord, a splendid example for all Your people.  The "sons of Israel" had sworn to transport the bones of Joseph to the Promised Land.  Now Moses fulfilled the oath.

You keep Your word to us, Lord, and we should keep our word to one another.  As the God of truth You are slandered, not served, by liars.  Perjury and deception have no place in our relationship to You and to others.

Your word counsels us against careless oaths and broken oaths.  You commend for Your fellowship the man "who speaks the truth from his heart...who keeps his oath when it hurts..."

Thankfully, You also forgive those who fail to meet these standards if they repent.  Sometimes the truest thing a man can say is that he has not dealt truthfully with others.  I was such a man until You had mercy and pardoned me.

Help me to keep faith with all who look to me for the help I can give them.  Help me to honor those who honored You in past years, as Moses did Joseph.

The Guide

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light (Exodus 13:21).

Lord, You not only redeem, You guide.  You do not set us free and say, "You're on your own."  Instead, You say, "Follow Me."  When we do, the route may be surprising but the goal is certain.

And You lead, Lord; You do not merely point.  You furnish no road map and You post no signs.  Better than that, You journey with us, leading the way.  The revealed God secures the untraveled route.  That is a comforting arrangement.

The ancient Israelites were guided by a pillar of cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night.  How dramatic!  But Your people are guided today by Your Word.  Better than a cloud in the sky for guidance is a Bible in the heart.  What Your Spirit once inspired He now illumines, and those guided by Scripture--believed and practiced--will surely reach Your appointed destination.

This day, Lord, let me be guided by that sure light.  Go before me from within me, and grant me grace and courage to follow You.

How God Is Glorified

I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army (Exodus 14:4).

You are glorified, O God, in the preservation of Your friends.  When the destruction of Israel seemed imminent, Moses assured them, "The Lord will fight for you" (v. 14).  With that kind of help victory could not be in doubt.  Your angel formed their rearguard and the pillar of cloud "stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel."  If someone has to go through You to get to Your people, he is doomed to defeat.

You are glorified, too, by the destruction of Your enemies.  You would befriend all persons, but many refuse Your overtures of mercy.  The arrogant and hard-hearted rebels become Your enemies at their choice, not Yours.  But while they can refuse mercy, they cannot escape judgment.  Sooner or later You demonstrate Your lordship by destroying Your enemies.

Lord, I would learn of Your glory as did Israel at the Sea--through Your saving grace.  I am Your friend.

Miracle Highway

The Israelites went through the sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:21).

Lord, the highway of redemption is paved with miracle--it is Your doing, not ours.  Commanding the forces of nature, You provided a roadway between walls of water and hastened Your people to freedom.  That miracle of deliverance became their enduring reminder of Your awesome power and limitless love.

A greater miracle was wrought to free Your new Israel from sin.  You raised from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, conquering sin and death forever.  The empty tomb became the foundation of our faith and hope.  "If You did that," we say in tough times, "You can snatch victory from apparent disaster in any situation."

Yours is "the great power" that grounds our trust, Lord.  We are not saved by our own efforts, however herculean, nor by our own assets, however impressive.  You alone can save us.

I stand before the empty tomb this morning, like Israel on freedom's shore, and "sing to the Lord" who "will reign for ever and ever."  My singing is rotten, Lord, but my song is sincere.

Power and Judgment

The water flowed back and covered the chariots and the horsemen (Exodus 14:28).

The sea opened for Your people, and closed upon their pursuers.  The same instrument can mean mercy for one but judgment for another.

To Your watching and alarmed people, the overthrow of Pharaoh's army was a display of Your "great power" that engendered trust.  The trust would waver, even fail, but the power remain undiminished.  I love it when the delivered people sang, "Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy" (15:6).  You saved Your people from powerful foes and only used one hand!  You have power to spare, O Lord--why should Your people ever doubt?

Poor Egyptian soldiers!  They followed a bad leader and shared his fate.  Israel followed a good leader and beheld Your glory.

For over 50 years I have followed Jesus Christ, the best of leaders.  Lord, I have observed and experienced the same "great power" that Israel celebrated at the Red Sea--the power of divine love to save the unworthy and to judge the unyielding.

The Warrior

The Lord is a warrior (Exodus 15:3).

Lord, I have read some negative comments about the "warrior image."  Some exegetes and theologians think it an unworthy term for You.  They are such radical "peaceniks" that they strongly object to any appellation that implies violence and conflict.

Your are "the God of peace."  You have peace and You make peace and You give peace.  All this I learn from the Bible, and I have found peace as the fruit of Your abiding Spirit.  I am called to pursue peace with all men.

But this I know, too, that peace is purchased at the cost of conflict.  Someone has to accept the warrior's role and battle the forces of evil. "The Lord" is Your name, indeed, but all do not submit to Your lordship.  They must be conquered before peace can everywhere prevail.  Someone must oppose sin, even to the point of bloodshed.  You have chosen the warrior's role and You will destroy Your enemies.

You never strike an unjust blow.  You always treat repentant enemies as lifelong friends.  But You will never surrender Your people to evil for the sake of "peace" that is stripped of holiness and justice.  I praise You as the Warrior whose conflicts and victories have secured life and peace for me and offer peace to all.

Love Leads

In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed (Exodus 15:13).

You lead in love, Lord, and that comforts my heart.

I know that love will lead only where I ought to go.  I no longer pretend to know what's best for me, but Your love is wise, and in following You my highest welfare is served.

I know, too, that love's guidance means rough paths at times.  I need to be toughened and gentled, and for that You choose hard places and rugged trails.  You are committed to my character, not to my comfort.  Your "unfailing love" will not allow me to be selfish or soft.  You care too much for me to spare me from all pain and privation.

Your Son, O God, "learned obedience from what he suffered," and He suffered in "reverent submission" (Heb. 5:7-8).  I would learn in the same school and with the same attitude.

Because You love me, You guide me.  Because I love You, I follow You.

Strength Guides

In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling (Exodus 15:13).

Where Your love leads me Your strength upholds me.  In my weakness I would turn back or drop dead when the path becomes extra rough and steep.  But grasped by Your almighty hand I will be secured against--not exempt from--all threatening situations.

I don't know where the daily path will lead, Lord, but I am sure of the final goal.  You are leading me "to your holy dwelling."  You are leading me to that place and state to which the name of heaven has been given.  What heaven will be like, in precise detail, I don't know.  But the teasing glimpses of heaven afforded in Scripture keep my heart athirst with expectation.  Jesus is the Way, and if the glory of the Way now will be exceeded by the glory of heaven, "How beautiful heaven must be!"

Christian life is a road home, Lord, and that road is always the happiest one I travel.  It is happy but not easy.  I count on Your strength to get me home.

Sweet Water

...the Lord showed him a piece of wood.  He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet (Exodus 15:25).

Sweet water means life to a desert traveler, Lord.  I can understand the consternation of Israel at Marah, though it doesn't excuse their grumbling.  They should have trusted You, for they were only three days march from the Red Sea.  Surely the God who opened its waters could sweeten Marah's.

Moses tossed a piece of wood into the spring.  Not just any piece of wood, but one that You showed him.  We are not at liberty to select the means of our salvation.  You choose for us.

Into the bitterest of all waters, the waters of death, You threw wood of Your choosing--the cross of Christ. Through His atoning death those waters were sweetened and became life giving for us.  Because of Him we can die with our sins forgiven, with our hearts at peace, and destined to share forever that fellowship with You which is life eternal.

Praise Your name!

The Healer

I am the Lord who heals you (Exodus 15:26).

You made us, Lord.  Who better than You can repair us when systems break down?

Most of Your work in our lives is done through human instruments.  I thank You for all that doctors, nurses, medicines, therapies, and surgeries are doing to bring healing to the sick.  But Lord, beyond all their skillful efforts, You sometimes place invisible healing hands upon Your sick or injured people, granting health directly and immediately.

As a doctor friend once told me, when asking me to pray for certain of his patients, "We doctors know what we can do; we never know what the Lord might do."

Apart from Your healing touch, Lord, my ministry would have ended over 50 years ago.  I praise You for the harvest of those added years.

You have taught me, Lord, to rejoice in the fact of healing and not quarrel with the means You choose to effect healing.

Bread From Heaven

I will rain down bread from heaven for you (Exodus 16:4).

You provided supernaturally, Lord, for Your people could not provide for themselves naturally.  You help those who cannot help themselves, to twist and old adage.  What couldn't be produced on earth You sent "from heaven."

You provided abundantly, also.  You didn't let their bread drip down.  It poured down.  There was a supply adequate for every one's need--though not their greed.  You are not a miserly God, but a generous, ungrudging Benefactor.

You provided daily, except for the Sabbath.  That day's rations were given, though, on the day before.  You taught Your people to live a day at a time, to live in the present, to recognize Your involvement in their lives on a daily basis, not merely in a weekly worship.

You provided graciously--not for deserving devotees but for guilty grumblers.  You met their needs; You didn't reward their merits.  Had You treated them as they did You, they would have died frightfully skinny.

All of this I think of, Lord, when I hear Jesus say, "I am the bread of life."

The Gracious Hearer

I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites (Exodus 16:11).

Your ears miss nothing, Lord.  You hear all that is said to You and overhear all that is said to others.

That is a caution to me.  I am sometimes prone to thoughtless, careless speech.  Since words cannot be recalled, they should be wisely and lovingly chosen.  You heard Israel's groaning in Egypt and their grumbling in the desert.

And You responded to both groaning and grumbling with grace, Lord.  You freed the slaves and fed the liberated.

As Your hearing is a caution to me, so Your caring is a challenge to me.  I should respond to human need graciously, not helping and giving because people are deserving, but because they are hurting.  Generosity, not reciprocity, should mark my responses, as it does Yours.  I am challenged to reflect Your likeness in all my relationships to people and things.

Grant me a heart like Yours, O God.

To Each According To His Need

Each one gathered as much as he needed (Exodus 16:17).

You will food for the hungry, Lord.  That is one obvious lesson from the miracle of the manna.  Wherever people are starving Your will is being thwarted by abuses of human freedom. Men bring upon themselves and others the tragic consequences of greed and oppression.

You will food but You oppose waste.  "As much as needed" is Your rule.  I remember that Jesus, when He fed the multitude, commanded the disciples to gather up the leftovers.  With so many in distress today, wasting food resources is a mockery of their hunger.  Surely the size of a people's garbage is an index of their character.

You are also opposed to laziness, Lord.  You rained bread from heaven, but the people had to gather it.  You didn't drop it on their plates.  Paul's "rule" sounds harsh to welfare-staters--"If a man will not work, he shall not eat"--but we must not encourage laziness in the name of mercy.

Lord, we need grace and sense.  I need them both, Lord!

Daily Fare

No one is to keep any of it until morning (Exodus                              16:19).

You teach me, Lord, that today's manna will not sustain tomorrow's march.  I must feed daily on Jesus Christ, the living bread sent down from heaven.

Furthermore, I need to gather my manna early, Lord.  "When the sun grew hot it melted away" (v. 21).  Opportunity is never static.  Unless I rise early to commune with You and to nourish my soul upon Your word, the hours will slip past, other matters will engage my time and energy, and what is good will rob me of what is best.

I thank You for the quiet hours of manna gathering I've enjoyed across the years.  They are as vital, as bracing, as satisfying as when I first began the long march with You.  Your presence never fails to attract and excite.  Your Word never fails to arrest, correct, reprove, encourage--whatever my heart needs I find within its pages.

Give me this day my spiritual rations, Lord.  I do not know what awaits me.  I do know who feed and leads me.

Reminders and Shapers

Aaron put the manna in front of the Testimony, that it might be kept (Exodus 16:34).

Lord, You commanded a jar of manna to be preserved as a witness "for the generations to come."  They must have reminders of how lovingly and powerfully You wrought to deliver and to preserve Your people.

We are shaped by past generations.  Who they were and how they lived are factors of heritage that flow in our blood and surface in our words and deeds.  I have been formed in subtle and unconscious ways by previous generations.

Just as we are shaped by past generations, Lord, we are responsible for future generations.  Faith is non-transferable.  I cannot believe for my children and grandchildren.  But the story of faith is transmissible, and I intend to share it with them.  I want to leave contours upon their memories that You can use to help bring them to faith.  My memoirs, Lord, will be a witness to Your unfailing greatness and goodness.

Don't Quarrel, Pray!

There was no water for the people to drink, so they quarreled with Moses (Exodus 17:1, 2).

I have learned, Lord, that when problems arise, the weak seek scapegoats, the wise seek solutions. When trouble comes, the first instinct of some is to place blame; the first instinct of others is to restore, resolve, repair.

When the people jumped on Moses he wisely "cried out" to You.  "What am I to do with these people?"  Frustrated ministers often ask this question.  I should know.  That You have redeemed and adopted a people doesn't make them always easy or pleasant to lead.  Your sheep can be so goatish at times!

As frustrated pastors frequently raise Moses' question, wise pastors utilize his resource--they call on You.  Quarreling only increases trouble.  Prayer opens a situation to Your remedy.

Your answer to Moses intrigues me:  "Walk on ahead of the people."  What a leader must do under fire is keep leading.  He is not to run from the people to save himself.  He is to walk ahead of the people to save them.

I'm glad I learned that, Lord.

The Life Giving Rock

Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink (Exodus 17:6).

Lord, You provided life from an unexpected source by an unusual means.

Everybody knows that water comes from springs, creeks, rivers, and lakes--not from rocks.  But water first comes from the skies, and You can store it where You will.

Who expected a strange, itinerant rabbi named Jesus to be our water of life?  "The carpenter's son," His neighbors dubbed Him, and refused to see Him as a heaven-sent Savior of earth's lost people.

Moses struck the rock and water gushed forth to slake the thirst and save the lives of doom-threatened people.  How odd. You get water from catching rain or pumping wells or dipping it from streams--not by striking a rock!

Could a crucified Jew, smitten to death by Romans at the instigation of His own people, be the Savior of mankind?  Indeed, He has proved to be the lifesaver and life giver to all who believe in Him.  I know!

Life from an unexpected source by an unusual means--that is the gospel.  Christ is the Rock!

He Is With Us

Is the Lord among us or not? (Exodus 17:7).

Of course You were among them, Lord.  Your presence is precisely the reason why quarreling is perilous and obedience is victorious.

Then and now, Lord, people are prone to doubt Your presence when things are difficult and disappointing.  They foolishly suppose that Your presence guarantees prosperity and pleasure.  They want religion that exempts from suffering, not religion that triumphs over suffering.

No one today can read Your Word and excuse such a shallow conclusion.  In all centuries Your people have endured tribulation.  Never was this truer than when Your only-begotten Son was tortured and executed for our sakes.

You are in our midst, Lord, both as Savior and Judge.  You reward obedience and punish disobedience.  That our paths are rocky at times does not justify our rebellion against Your will.  You slaked Your people's thirst but You did not ignore their grumbling.

I welcome Your presence, Lord--not as a magical means of avoiding suffering, but as a source of strength for winning victories.

Prayer and Battle

As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning... Aaron and Hur held his hands up... (Exodus 17:11-12).

There is no victory without prayer, Lord, not for those who fight in Your cause.  The intercession of Moses was as vital to success as were the flashing swords of Joshua and his troops.

Prayer is not a substitute for battle, Lord, but it is indispensable for victory.  Prayer can be escapism for the man afraid to go to battle.  Battle can be escapism for the man unable or unwilling to pray.  I have found it easier to scrap than pray, Lord, so help me to correct the imbalance.

Aaron and Hur, holding up the tired hands of Moses, teach me that the strongest leaders need support.  To help a great man with his task is to share his reward.

Here, Lord, was a holdup that enriched rather than impoverished.  Help me to uphold those You have chosen to lead Your people.

My Banner

Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner (Exodus 17:15).

Lord, here is the best way to celebrate a victory.  To build an altar, a place to worship You, is better than all the world's monuments to human pride and skill.  Moses was too wise, too honest, to credit himself or others for a triumph You enabled.

"The Lord is my Banner."  Here is a flag never dipped in surrender, never trailed in the dust of defeat.  If I fight to exalt myself I will lose.  If I fight at Your direction and for Your glory I will win, for Your kingdom is forever.

Behind Israel's victory over the Amalekites, as Moses knew, were hands "lifted up to the throne of the Lord."  Lord, You are the source of all my triumphs; You will be the focus of all my victory celebrations.

I feel such a celebration coming on, Lord!

Greater Than All

I know the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this...(Exodus 18:11).

Egypt was great, therefore its gods were great--that was the logic of the time.  The deliverance of Israel and the destruction of Pharaoh's army evidenced the superior might and glory You possessed, Lord.  The Exodus was Your judgment upon all the gods of Egypt.

You are known by Your doing, and none can outdo You.  Whom You bless are blessed indeed; whom You curse are cursed indeed.  Your friends cannot fall, Your enemies cannot stand.  The fate of all is in Your hands.

How stupid I would be, Lord, to serve a lesser god!  "No one can serve two masters."  I choose to serve the One who is "greater than all," not only in power but in love, wisdom, compassion, mercy, justice, and holiness.  I can sing with an ancient bard, "More than all in Thee I find."

You are known by what You do.  The devil is known by what he undoes.  In serving You I experience deliverance and restoration.  I am weak but not stupid.  Only the greatest will be my Lord!

Help Needed

The work is too heavy for you, you cannot handle it alone (Exodus 18:15).

Lord, I've seen pastors burn out and break down because they tried to do everything themselves.  They forgot that work shared is a load lightened.

Perhaps they were vain, believing that no one could excel them in quantity or quality of work done.  Perhaps they were insecure, feeling that shared tasks would mean reduced control.  Perhaps they were jealous, fearing that helpers would get publicity and credit they desired.  Whatever the reason, they killed themselves off or retired embittered and frustrated.

Thank You, Lord, for teaching me that delegation of responsibility is the secret of maximum achievement.  Thank You for making me smart enough, and strong enough, to know that I wasn't smart enough or strong enough.  For all whose resources and skills I was able to enlist in Your work, I give You praise.  More was done and better done because I didn't try to do it all myself.

Qualified Leaders

But select capable men...men who fear God...men who hate dishonest gain--and appoint them as officials... (Exodus 18:21).

Capability and character--these are the qualities most needed for effective leadership in church and state.  The combination seems to be rare, Lord, and history bleeds from the disastrous consequences of an incompetent and immoral power-elite.  Exposes of corruption topple governments and cripple churches.

When people are facing perilous times the incompetent cannot save them, though they want to; the dishonest will not save them, though they ought to.

God-fearing and honest leaders have been in short supply in my lifetime, Lord.  Reading history convinces me that such leaders have never been plentiful.  Those who are right morally but ineffective politically have worsened the problems with which they grappled.

Lord, for nations and churches, raise up leaders who have pure hearts and wise heads.  Relieve our dearth of wise and good office-holders, or the people will perish. Without wisdom the good flounder; without goodness the wise corrupt.  We need both.

Shared Labor

The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves (Exodus 18:26).

Truly, Lord, the first test of leadership is to know the difference between the difficult and simple cases.  When the simple is treated as difficult, and difficult as simple, time, money, and energy are wasted and chaos results.

The true leader, like Moses, delegates the easier tasks to others and reserves the harder ones for himself.  He does not unburden himself by overloading subordinates.  Such a leader is "the people's representative before God."  He listens to them and talks to God.  He listens to God and talks to them.  His responsibility and accountability is to both God and the people.

A devout leader with discerning helpers is an ideal situation, Lord.  It is a target seldom hit but always worth aiming at.

To those gifted for leadership let me be such a helper.  Let me lighten their burdens by sharing their responsibilities.  As they serve You as mediators for the people, let me serve You as an intercessor for them.  Submission to them and supplication for them is commanded of me (Heb. 13:17-18).  Help me to joyfully obey that they may joyfully labor. Amen.

Eagle Flight

I carried you on eagle's wings and brought you to myself (Exodus 19:4).

You speak in figures, Lord.  Grant me the wisdom and ability to follow Your example when I preach to Your people.  You are the supreme model for those who are called to serve as Your messengers.  You supply both the content and manner of our preaching.

"On eagle's wings"--what an exciting trip!  Did the figure of speech surprise the dusty, sweaty, weary people who had been trudging through the desert?  Surely the most obtuse of them were conscious of You as the source of their flight to freedom.  Your miraculous intervention had provided a pathway through the sea, bread from the skies, and water from a rock.  On their own they would have perished by the sword or from starvation.

"To myself"--what a satisfying terminal!  The destiny of Your people is not geographical but spiritual.  As Isaac Watts declared, Your are "our Guide while life shall last/ And our eternal Home."

Yes, Lord, You are both transportation and destination.  Bring me home, Lord!

God's Treasure

Out of all nations you will be my treasured possession (Exodus 19:5).

What high privilege was Israel's!  Talk about "favored nation status"--they had it with a capital F.

But privilege measures responsibility, Lord, and this is what Israel forgot.  You not only called them "out of all nations" but for all nations.  You did not call them to be Your pets but to be Your servants.  Their calling was partial fulfillment of Your covenant with Abraham, a covenant whose blessings terminated upon all the nations (Gen. 12:1-3).

Today the Church is Your chosen nation and treasured possession, Lord (1 Pet. 2:9).  The Church is called not for its own sake but for the sake of all nations (Matt. 28:20); chosen not because we are choice, but because You are gracious; chosen not to be self-contained, but to be Your gospel-bearers to a lost world.

Lord, You do not hoard Your treasure, You spend it.  As You gave Christ for the Church, so You give the Church for the world.  As Paul was glad to spend and be spent for the Corinthians, so let me be poured out gladly for those who need to hear Your word of life proclaimed.

Easy To Say, Hard To Do

We will do everything the Lord has said (Exodus 19:8).

Easier said than done, Lord!  Millions have said this but few have added performance to promise.  Israel's repeated failures led to one remedial judgment after another.  The Church's record, too, is appalling.

How marked with failure was my own effort to comply with all You commanded.  I promised earnestly and sincerely, Lord, as You know.  But I stumbled repeatedly, to my shame and discouragement.

I knew the trouble was in my heart, Lord, not in Your commands.  Inwardly depraved and weak, I had a genuine desire to please You, but had no power to obey You.  The carnal mind was not, and could not be, subject to Your law.

I vainly supposed that time would mature me and maturity would stabilize me, but I learned that sin cannot be destroyed by growth.  Only when You filled me with Your Spirit, interiorizing Your law, did I discover that power for obedience which makes Your law my delight, not my despair.

Speech Partners

Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him (Exodus 19:19).

Lord God, when You created the first man Your next act was to speak to him.  Human beings are Your speech partners, and that sharply distinguishes us from the animals.  The capacity for communion with You is a gift not shared by them.

You often but not always speak first.  By example You teach me my responsibility both to speak and to respond when another speaks.  As speaker and listener You show me how to establish and preserve life's most important relationships.

Whatever Moses said, You spoke to command.  You always speak to us as the Lord.  We always speak to You as the commanded, not as commanders.  Speech was given that we might know and do Your will, not that we might impose our wills upon You.  "Amen," as a response, is our vocabulary, not Yours.

Speak Your will to me for this day's living, Lord, and I will speak the "amen" of obedience.

Law and Grace

I am the Lord your God, who brought you...out of...slavery (Exodus 20:2).

I never tire of reading this "intro" to Your covenant stipulations for Israel.  It keeps me aware of the fact that law was given in a context of grace. To a people already redeemed, not because they were worthy but because You are love, You "spoke all these words" of the covenant.

Law is a guide map for the saved, Lord, not a ladder for the unsaved.  It directs us to live for You in gratitude for unmerited deliverance.  It was not given as a means of earning Your deliverance and fellowship.

We don't climb up to You at our best.  You came down to us at our worst.  When we were helpless and degraded, You condescended to "our low estate," coming in Jesus to redeem us from sin and to unite us with yourself.

Law given in grace can never be unwise or unkind.  It is not given as punishment but for guidance.  It aims at the highest welfare of those who have been saved by grace.

You redeem by ruling, You rule by redeeming--all is love, grace, and mercy, O Lord!

No Other Gods

You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3).

"No other gods"--period.  This is Your intention in the first commandment, Lord.  You are not consenting to other gods as long as You are given first place in the pantheon.  "Before me" means "in my presence," not "in my place."  Since You are present everywhere all other gods are taboo.  You alone are God, the others are "gods so-called"--gods in name but not in fact.

"No other gods" are needed.  You alone are the Savior of Your people.  You alone are the supplier of their needs.  To what You do for us nothing can be added by some other god.  We can only foolishly and perversely attribute to false gods what is truly from You.

"No other gods" are needed, no other gods should be desired.  How stupid of us to forsake the True for the false, the Holy for the wicked, the Loving for the cruel, the Wise for the capricious, the Almighty for the powerless.  Nothing so clearly demonstrates the blinding power of sin as man-made gods.

One, true, living, redeeming God--You are my God forever!

Forbidden Folly

You shall not make for yourself an idol (Exodus 20:4).

Lord, I see that idol making is the essence of sin, the perverse activity of wicked men who want to assert, defend, and protect themselves against You.  They want gods that will not disturb a sleeping conscience, will not condemn a wicked practice, will not threaten an avenging judgment.  They want gods who grant material favors without raising moral questions.  They want gods to serve their desires, not to demand their service.

It is said, "Like gods, like people."  "They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves" (Jer. 2:5).  But it can also be said, "like people, like gods."  Idols did not make the people, the people made idols.  And what they made reflected what they were in their depraved hearts and disordered lives.  The evil gods express the character of their makers.  The holy God made man in His own image.  Unholy men make gods in their own image.

Lord, I don't want a god like me!  Make me like You!

The Holy Name

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God (Exodus 20:7).

When I read that, Lord, I think at once of cussing.  Thousands of people use Your name only in profanity, never in prayer.  They make it trivial, treating it in a way they would never treat the names of their loved ones.

But Your name is also misused by some in discussing.  They empty Your name of its revealed content and give it to an idea of God conjured up in their own minds.  They reduce You to an idol subject to manipulation--all of this done in learned conversation among scholars with impressive degrees.

The only way we can avoid misusing Your name, Lord, is to let You name yourself, as You do in Scripture, and then worship and proclaim You as that God.

Keep me, Lord, from misusing Your name by making it the butt of jokes, the stuff of insults, or the label of idols.

Keep The Day Holy

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy (Exodus 20:8).

We do not make the Sabbath holy, Lord, we only keep it holy.  It is Your work, not our rest, that sanctifies the day.  Your work as Creator and Redeemer gives us something to rest in, something to rely on, and something to "remember."

Some argue that all days are holy, Lord.  We realize that best by keeping one day holy, by devoting one day to worship in a manner that we cannot do on all days.

We must work to have bread. We need a weekly Sabbath to rest in Your work, to celebrate the gift of "bread from heaven," to remember that "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

History shows that when all days are treated alike no day is holy.  Monday doesn't become like Sunday.  Instead, Sunday becomes like Saturday.

Help me to commemorate and celebrate a finished redemption by corporate worship and  rest.  Let me not be at home when I should be at church; let me not be at work when I should be at rest.

Honor Parents

Honor your father and mother (Exodus 20:12).

Lord, I cannot honor You if I dishonor my parents.  And though they are no longer here on earth, I honor them by observing every good that marked their lives and preserving every value that produced their good.

On the other hand, Lord, I cannot honor my parents if I dishonor You.  When they were unsaved, I brought no honor to them by emulating their sins.  That only deepened their guilt and my corruption.  I honored them best when I yielded my heart and life to You, although--at the time--they experienced my conversion as an embarrassment, not as an honor.

I do not feel honored when my own children refuse to serve You.  What I have given my life for, some of them treat as optional and trivial.  My heart is broken, Lord, and the devil keeps telling me that my life has been wasted.  Sustain me, lest I go to my grave with a defeated spirit.

When Is Killing Murder?

You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13).

Homicide is often attempted deicide, Lord.  You are the giver of life.  You have declared the sanctity of human life.  You have legislated against the selfish and wanton destruction of a person's life.  To strike others down is, therefore, to strike at You.  Murder is the act of a person who wishes to be rid of You.

But I know, Lord, that all killing is not murder.  That is evident to common sense by the death penalty You attached to certain laws.  You also ordered armies into battle.  You even struck down some evildoers yourself, not simply through intermediaries.  Those who are telling me that all killing is murder reject Your word and distort Your character.

This I conclude, Lord--that all who do not kill as the agents of Your purpose are killing as murderers.

Condemnation and Forgiveness

You shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14).

Lord, how much adultery has been "justified" as love!  "We couldn't help it--we fell in love."  Surely, this is lust miscalled love, and it calls for repentance, not for rationalization.

You teach that love fulfills the law.  Broken law cannot be excused by calling it love.  You did not hesitate to condemn a king's adultery; You certainly won't condone anyone else's.

What You must condemn, however, You will forgive--not unconditionally but graciously.  When marriage partners won't forgive, You will, if guilty persons repent and believe.  When offended spouses do forgive, they faintly but truly reflect Your amazing love.

Across the years as a counseling pastor I've seen marriages destroyed by adultery and saved by forgiveness.  The cost of both sin and forgiveness is great.

This, too, I've learned--it's hard to bring to repentance those for whom literature and television made adultery a form of entertainment.

Person and Property

You shall not steal (Exodus 20:15).

Our society distinguishes between crimes against persons and crimes against property.  The latter have become increasingly regarded as trivial.

But again and again, Lord, I have seen this: Those who do not respect another's property do not respect his person either.  Those who despise property rights will not honor personal rights.

Shakespeare made a character say, "Who steals my purse steals trash."  That's not true, Lord.  Personal property and money are "congealed manhood and womanhood."  They represent life expended in labor.  They are the sweat and toil of persons in another form.  They cannot be disrespected and the person respected.

You make that clear, Lord, by laws that protect property as surely as persons.  You know how short the step between theft and adultery and murder.  He who will not scruple against stealing another's money will not hesitate, should desire and opportunity coincide, to take his wife or his life also.

Keep me respecting others' property by respecting their persons.

False Witness Abounds

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16).

False testimony is given out of lust or fear.  Those who lie under oath are either afraid the truth will damage them or hope a lie will enrich them.  Intimidation or avarice suborns them.

Perjury is commonly practiced and rarely punished in this country, Lord.  This is true, in great part, because our judicial system is not a quest for truth but a contest of lawyers.  If lies are deemed necessary for conviction or acquittal they are encouraged, even purchased.

In politics, we no longer expect our leaders to tell the truth.  Politicians lie to each other and to the people habitually, turning themselves and the public into cynics.  In the nation's capitol, Lord, old Diogenes would need plenty of oil for his lamp!

The false witness may escape the threats of men, but he incurs Your wrath.  He may fatten his purse but he impoverishes his soul.  Truth is final and truth will out, Lord, for this is Your world and You are its Judge.

Law's Inward Dimension

You shall not covet (Exodus 20:17).

Here, Lord, Your law pierces our hearts.  It exposes mere legalism as an outward pose contradicted by an inward pollution.  A person may avoid acts of irreverence, murder, adultery, and theft, whose desires are hateful and greedy.

This was the commandment that drove home the fact of sin to Paul (Rom. 7:7-8).  He washed his hands and held them out for approval, but his heart was foul with wrong desires.  His rule keeping was a contemptible facade, a mask.

Lord Jesus, the hatred of Pharisees that hounded You to a cross was aroused because You "interiorized" the law.  You exposed the hearts of men whose religion was a false front behind which every form of evil was lurking.  Unable to bear the exposure, unwilling to admit the truth, they slandered and killed

You.

True religion is heart-deep, Lord.  Your law requires, and Your grace enables, inward and outward holiness.  "Make and keep me pure within."

Veiling and Vision

Moses approached the thick darkness where God was (Exodus 20:21).

You are light, Lord, but You dwell in "unapproachable light" (1 Tim. 6:16).  That, too, is grace, Lord.  You veil yourself in order to reveal yourself.  We could not gaze upon Your unveiled glory and survive the splendor.  Frail mortals, we would crumple and die beneath the dazzling weight of that full disclosure.

Charles Wesley sang truly, "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; / Hail th' incarnate Deity!"  The incarnation was Your veiling in order to our vision.  In Jesus we see You truly but not completely.  The "unapproachable light" would destroy us.

"Moses approached the thick darkness” to commune with You.  His allowed approach attested Your grace.  But, wonder of wonders, in Jesus Christ You entered our darkness!  You wrapped light in darkness to protect Moses. You penetrated darkness with light to save us all.  Your fullness of glory is matched by Your fullness of grace.  I praise You for this!

Go Free

...in the seventh year, he shall go free (Exodus 21:2).

Your law allowed slavery, Lord, but did not approve it.  I don't understand the permission, but I respect the limitation.  It was not Your will for any person to spend a lifetime in involuntary servitude.  You did not will that successive generations would exist as slaves.  The efforts of people to justify American slavery by recourse to Your word was shameful mistreatment of Scripture.

Freedom should be the future of every person.  This is implied by "the seventh year" provision of Mosaic law.  It is not Your will that any should live and die in bondage to sin, either.  Your gospel is an offer of liberation to the enslaved, of unshackling to the prisoners.  Your bloody cross, Your empty grave, Your holy word all "proclaim freedom" (Luke 4:18).  You have made freedom the future of all who receive You.

I praise You that I am one of Your liberated slaves--a sinner saved by grace.

My chains fell off; my heart was free!

I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

--Charles Wesley

Voluntary Servitude

I love my master and wife and children and do not want to go free (Exodus 21:5).

Lord, You accept voluntary servitude only.  You coerce no one into Your service.  You make no unwilling slaves.  You call to us, "Follow Me," and respect our freedom to obey or refuse.  You never hide the cost of serving You or the consequences of not serving You.  Everything is "up front."

Only love inspires our voluntary servitude.  "I love my Master...and do not want to go free" is every Christian's response to You.  And it is response, not initiative.  We love You because You first loved us.  We serve You because You first served us.  Your love and Your service was costlier than ours could ever be.  Small wonder that You inspire followers!

Paul rejoiced to identify himself as Your slave, and so do I, Lord Jesus.  I will never quit Your service to gain my freedom.  Your service is my freedom.  I am truly free to be myself when I am utterly committed to Your will.

Value Denied

Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death (Exodus 21:12).

The death penalty placed highest value on human life.  You imposed no such penalty upon the killing of animals.

Our society has reduced human beings to sophisticated animals.  We keep turning killers loose to perpetuate their wanton slayings.  Indeed, in most cases, the murderer's life is valued above that of his victim.

A friend of mine shot his wife to death.  Brought to trial, he was fined 500 dollars and released.  He would have incurred a harsher penalty for killing a race- horse or a pedigreed pig.

Opponents of capital punishment argue that it doesn't deter crime.  Your law was given to define sin, not to deter it.  The death penalty may not have deterred the murderer's crime but it affirmed the value of the victim's life.

Sentiment may replace justice here, Lord, but every murderer will face at last a higher court, a greater Judge.

On Restitution

A thief must certainly make restitution (Exodus 22:3).

I knew a farmer, with a well-earned reputation as a deadbeat, who said, "God forgave my debts--I don't have to pay them."  Needless to say, Lord, his distortion of Your word was unconvincing to both his church and his creditors.

We used to preach restitution, Lord.  Some preached it as a concomitant of repentance, some as a condition of salvation, some as a consequence of forgiveness--but we preached it.  One can be a lifelong churchgoer now and never hear of making restitution.

As a consequence, grace is cheapened and ethics degraded.  Dishonesty wears religious clothes and persons claiming to be reconciled to You make no effort to be reconciled to those they have wronged.

Lord, You forgive our debts to You, but not to others.  We earn contempt from them, not respect, when we excuse our theft from them by appealing to Your mercy on us.  You bore the cost of our forgiveness; it should not become a penalty exacted from our creditors.

Champion of the Defenseless

Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan (Exodus 22:3).

Lord, You declared yourself a special friend of the defenseless.  You love all persons and all classes, but You champion in particular those who are easy for the wicked to prey upon like jackals or vultures.

Some of those vultures wear religion as a mask, Lord.  When You came in Jesus to this earth, You warned against Pharisees who prayed showy prayers but "devoured" widows' houses.  Some television evangelists have been like that, hoarding millions that were garnered from widows deceived by their urgent appeals for emergency funds.

You have defined "pure religion" as sympathetic care of "orphans and widows in their distress" (Jas. 1:27).  Lord Jesus, You demonstrated solicitude for the poor widows You observed in Jewish society long ago.  To follow You sincerely, Your Church must also help such persons.

And Your Church is made up of individuals. The ancient commandment and Your personal example define my responsibility.  He me to discharge it faithfully.

No Profit from Distress

Charge him no interest (Exodus 22:22).

Lord, I have paid interest, but I have never charged interest.  I have often borrowed, but I have seldom lent.  You have inclined my heart to give, not to lend.  Some have labeled me a fool, but if so, I'm a happy fool.

You have cared well for me.  That obliges me to help care for those in need, not to exploit their trouble for my advantage, but to relieve their distress for their encouragement.

I know, Lord, that apart from Your grace I would be as selfish and stingy as any Scrooge on earth.  All of my sympathy for others was born from Your love for me.

The thousands I have spent to relieve and encourage others is known only to You.  Not even Doris is aware of it all, and since I keep no record of it, I am no longer aware of it all.  That's how I want it, Lord.

You condemn profit made from another's distress.  You bless those who share that distress in order to disburden the hurting and the helpless.  I want to be blessed, not condemned.  I want to help, not to exploit.  Lord, I want to be like You.

Holy People, Not Happy Dogs

You are to be my holy people.  So do not eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts; throw it to the dogs (Exodus 22:31).

Lord, You did not want Your people to eat a dog's food or lead a dog's life.  Part of what it means to be holy is to recognize and maintain the essential difference between persons and animals.

Secular biologists have degraded people by denying that distinction.  They embrace theories of evolution that "explain" human beings apart from "the image of God."  To them, we are scarcely more than animals who learned to walk upright and push wheelbarrows.

No animal has a capacity to worship You.  None of them can pray, none of them can forgive their enemies.  None of them reason or reflect upon their lives and deaths.  And because they do not have mankind's unique capacities, none of them can sin against You and sink beneath their true natures as can humans.

Keep me, Lord, from a dog's food and a dog's life.  Help me to be truly human by honoring You as Creator and Redeemer.

Help the Hater

If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it (Exodus 23:5).

To help an enemy, Lord, is the surest way to make a friend of him.  You command us to love our enemies, and in Your teaching loving equals doing good to the loved.  Many who never responded to arguments have been reached by kindness.  Your word reminds me that helping a donkey may convert a jackass.  And not helping one would make a jackass of me.

A donkey is not responsible for its owner's behavior.  That would be a heavier load than any poor beast ought to carry.  We should not transfer any person's guilt to a spouse, or to children, or to a race, or to a religion.  That someone wrongs us is no excuse to mistreat the offender, much less to abuse his family or property.

To forgive the erring, to lift the fallen, to return good for evil is to live as You live, Lord.  That's how I want to live.  Furnish the needed grace and I will obey the commanded good.

No Majority Rule In Ethics

Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong (Exodus 23:2).

I know, Lord, that morality is not determined by opinion polls.  The old saying, "Fifty million Frenchmen can't be wrong," is simply untrue.  All actions contrary to Your word are wrong, whatever the number of actors involved.  Sin is not "denatured" by popularizing it.

Too many persons, and even churches, lack the will to swim against the current.  They adjust their morals to assure acceptance with the crowd.  Consensus theology and consensus ethics can be destroyers of Christian faith and practice.

You rule Your people by truth and justice, not by majority votes.  It has been well and often said, "Right is right if no one does it; wrong is wrong if everyone does it." Lord Jesus, Your doctrine of "the two ways," teaches me to distrust majority ethics (Matt. 7:13-14).  Better a lonely path to heaven than a crowded road to hell.

Help me, Lord, like Elijah of old, not to plead for Baal however outnumbered by his priests.  Help me to be governed by Christ-rule not by crowd-rule.

Blinding Bribes

A bribe blinds those who see (Exodus 23:8).

To offer a bribe is  bad, Lord.  To accept a bribe is worse.  Bribery has fostered corruption in government for centuries.  When we pin honest labels on our actions, every special-interest contribution to political campaigns is a species of bribe.  Police and judges who are "bought" are lower than the criminals whom they arrest and try.  Bribery is so rampant it has lost its power to shock John Q. Public.

I've watched and learned, Lord, that there are two equally despicable ways to blind a man--to gouge his eyes and to stuff his wallet.

How sad that preachers have been bribed.  That such a lecherous rascal as J. P. Morgan could have been the leading layman of his church is an indictment of hypocrites who served that church as bishops.  Mammon-worshipping parsons have often trimmed their messages to suit well-heeled church members.

Save me, Lord, from blinding bribes.

All Can Give

No one is to appear before me empty-handed (Exodus 23:15).

All can give to You, Lord, for all have received from You.  Your word declares, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded" (Luke 12:48).  It is also true that to whom a little has been given a little will be required.  You excuse no person from doing what he or she can.

Lord Jesus, You said of one woman, a poor widow who gave two small coins to the temple treasury, that she out-gave the rich.  You measured giving by what was left, not by what was contributed.  But You did not excuse the poor from giving something.  Poverty does not justify selfishness.

I think of the man who told me he didn't go to church because he couldn't give anything in the offerings taken.  He smoked cigarettes and drank whiskey daily.  He had money to indulge his lusts, none to worship the Lord.  Truth is, Lord, he was a liar and a thief.

What any of us gives to You was first of all Your gift to us.  Lord, I want to honor You by giving, by total living.  The full-hearted will not be empty-handed.

The Best

Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God (Exodus 23:19).

Lord God, You brought Your best to us in the incarnation and crucifixion of Your Son.  The manger and the cross are signs of Your overflowing love for undeserving persons.

Your love-gift should inspire the quality and measure of ours.  You deserve our best, indeed, far more than our best.

I want to bring my best to You, Lord.  Duty can do no more.  Love will do no less.  My best in time, effort, and achievement I will lay at Your feet in grateful recognition of Your best given to redeem me from sin.

My best is a meager offering, Lord, but a sincere one.  I really am grateful for Your overwhelming kindness.  When I was at my worst You gave Your best.  The most that I can give You is the least that I should give You.  The best that I can offer is the worst that I should offer.  Receive my best in the name our Your best.  Amen.

A Guide and a Guard

I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared  (Exodus 23:20).

Lord, You have prepared a place for me, according to Your promise in John 14:2.  What it shall be like I do not know.  Since all buildings reflect their designers and builders, I know that what You prepare will be glorious.

That place, and not this world, is my home.  As You did for ancient Israel, You are doing for me—leading me homeward daily.  Lord, whom You guide and guard is sure to get home!

I am not aware of an accompanying angel.  That does not mean that none journeys with me—there are “angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2).  But, Lord Jesus, You have gone before me and Your Spirit is going with me.  For guidance I have something better than an angel—I have the Bible and the Holy Spirit who inspired and illumines it.

How exciting and rewarding the journey has been, even in the roughest places.  As I near the end, how alluring is the goal!

A Proven Promise

Worship the Lord your God and his blessings will be on your food and water (Exodus 23:25).

Our greatest need, O Lord, is communion with You.  We need physical and material blessings, but above them all we need the Blesser.  Apart from worship, we turn Your blessings into curses, to our self-destruction.

I am talking to You about this on Thanksgiving Day.  My waking thoughts, O Lord, were not about things or even people.  They were centered upon You and saturated with gratitude.  For who You are and what You’ve done I am overflowing with praise.  “Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

Across the years that I have worshipped You “in spirit and in truth,” You have supplied all my needs” according to [Your] riches in Christ Jesus.”

Worship…food…water.  I have honored the greatest need, Lord, and You have secured the lesser needs.  To Your name be endless praises given!

All May now Come Near

Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near (Exodus 24:3).

One had permission, none had the right, to approach You, Lord.  Whatever the reasons for that restriction, You have removed it for Your New Covenant people.  The humblest of Your church have access to You, as surely as its leaders.  Even I am invited and urged to come boldly to Your throne of grace to “find grace to help” in my  “time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

We have not earned this marvelous freedom of access to You, Lord.  We are as unworthy as were Your ancient people.  But in Jesus, You have come closer to us than we can come to You.  In Him, You descended “into our condition” for our salvation.

You touched bottom in order to bring us to the top.  At the point of our deepest need You acted in greatest love.  The barriers are removed and we are embraced by Your pardoning, adopting grace.  Thank You, Lord, for coming to us that we might come to You.

The Written Word

Moses wrote down everything the Lord had said  (Exodus 24:7).

Lord, Your word was first spoken.  But attention spans are limited and memories are uncertain.  You had Your word written, therefore, providing us with permanent access to what You said.

In the fullness of time You sent the fullness of Your word—“The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us.”  People beheld the glory of the Incarnation, the self-expression of God come down to liberate from sin all who received the message.

Lord, enfleshment is the ultimate purpose of Your word.  You have given us the Scriptures, not merely to read and to debate, but to practice.

Moses wisely wrote “everything” down.  He did not edit You.  All Your words served Your purpose.  None was wasted.  We live by “every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  In this way, every need is met, every temptation is repulsed, and every believer is nourished.

Thank You for Your Word and for Your words that lead us to Him and keep us with Him.

Everything

We will do everything the Lord has said  (Exodus 24:7).

The “everything” of revelation requires the “everything” of response.  Lord, Your word is not a smorgasbord at which we can choose only what we like.  Man lives by “every word” from Your mouth; not just those he finds palatable.

King Saul tried to excuse the commands he disobeyed by pointing to those he had obeyed.  You did not acquit him because his disobedience was only partial.  I think there’s a bit of King Saul in most of us, Lord.  As an ancient poet said, we “compound for sins we are inclined to / by damning those we have no mind to.”

Lord, I have but one hope of living in obedience to all You say to me.  That hope is the promise, “I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees"”(Ezek. 36:27).  Your indwelling Spirit is my power of obedience.

You word is to be done, not merely heard.  Help me to translate hearing into doing—at all times, in all places, with all company.

Heart Giving

You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give  (Exodus 25:2).

Lord, the condition of our hearts determine the size of our offerings.

Some give sparingly, for their hearts are selfish.  Some give grudgingly, for they resent sharing and only do so when pressured by others.  Some give publicly, desiring a reputation for the generous support of worthy causes.  I knew a man in Georgia whose checks for charitable causes were always presented with a reporter and photographer there to publicize the event.

Back of the manner and measure of our giving to You is the condition of our inner lives.

I have learned, Lord, to thank You for the offering plates.  They are  one of Your strategies for saving me from the selfishness and ingratitude that drag people down to hell.

You have made me a steward, not a lord, of my assets.  Enable me to be a good steward.  I would give generously and gladly, Lord, in the spirit of Your self-giving for our salvation.

God Dwells With Us!

Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them (Exodus 25:8)

The visible sanctuary symbolized the invisible God.  You accommodated yourself to Your people’s need for aids to faith and worship.  Lord, You are gracious and condescending.

You were not confined to the tabernacle, but You were identified with it.  When pitched in the center of Israel’s camp, it reminded them of Your presence, indispensable to their welfare.

Lord, You tabernacled among Your people in Jesus Christ.  His incarnation was a tent pitching that bore the message of Your grace and truth more dramatically and helpfully than had the tabernacle or the temple.  In Him, You spelled out the meaning of Your name and made atonement for our sins.

Today, Lord, You dwell more graciously, though less clearly, in Your people.  Our bodies are temples in which Your Spirit resides.  That You would stoop to inhabit such poor dwellings evokes our love and praise.

Today, Lord, I would echo the prayer I heard at a camp meeting altar: “Come, Lord, and make a good home for yourself in my heart.”

The Meeting Place

There above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites  (Exodus 25:22).

Lord, You meet us in the place where atonement for sin has been made.  Into the “Most Holy Place” went the High Priest annually, there to sprinkle atoning blood upon the covering of the ark.

The privilege that belonged to Moses, and then to high priests, is now given to all Your covenant people.  Christ has atoned for sins “once for all,” and access to the throne of mercy is given to all who come to You in His name.  One High Priest and one Sacrifice  is sufficient for all persons, for all sins, for all time (Heb. 7:23-27).

You command Your people from the place of atonement.  Grace precedes law.  Law is given, not to save us but to guide us.  Before You command You have redeemed.  All Your requirements are grounded upon Your pardoning and cleansing love.  You will the best for us.  Hallelujah!

The Altar

Build an altar…  (Exodus 27:1).

True religion requires atonement through sacrifice.  Lord, when a man thinks he is acceptable to You on the basis of his own wisdom and works he has turned himself into an idol.  He is deceived and deceitful.  His is despised and doom, unless he repents.  He justly inherits every judgment You have pronounced upon idols and idolaters.

I remember, Lord, when an uncle said to me, “I don’t need to go to church.  I have no sins to confess.”  How bloated was his ego!  How distorted was his vision!  How deserved was His condemnation!  “All have sinned,” Lord, and a life without an altar is a life without God and hope.

True religion requires thankful response.  The altar where atoning sacrifice was made became the place where the grateful redeemed offered themselves in service to the gracious Redeemer.  You offered yourself for our salvation.  We offer ourselves for Your service.  The unoffered life is still in darkness and bondage.

Lord Jesus, my altar is Your cross.  There You died to save me from sin.  There I came to receive pardon and peace.  There I kneel today and pledge anew my redeemed life in grateful service to You, O Savior.

Why Preachers Fail

Consecrate them so they may serve me as priests (Exodus 28:41).

How many ministers are ruined by lack of consecration, Lord!  They do not draw near to You to catch Your spirit, adopt Your values, or learn Your will.  Instead, they scramble after the world's status symbols, eager to be counted a "success."  They want the latest and costliest of things, wasting their time, energy, and money on the creation of an "image" that says, "Look at me!  I've made it."  Worldliness has robbed them of spiritual power and reduced their ministries to empty rituals.

Others, Lord, are ruined by lack of service.  Their problem is not worldliness but laziness.  More fail for want of effort, Lord, than for want of ability.  If a man is lazy and  changes churches every few years, he can fleece the sheep for his own advantage and get away with it for a lifetime, Lord.

Keep me from worldliness, and keep me from laziness.  Help me to live simply and to labor diligently.  I don't want retirement to become a rationale for either of these preacher-spoiling evils.

Glorious Places

The place will be consecrated by my glory (Exodus 29:43).

Your presence consecrates the humblest place, O Lord.

I have often preached in simple places to humble people, and Your glory made the services a heaven on earth.  In tents, in jails, in houses, in schools, in churches You were there to bless Your word and people, and an indescribable holiness pervaded the worship, touching mundane lives with unearthly peace and joy.

Your absence desecrates the costliest place, Lord.  From stately cathedrals and hollow rituals people have gone unchanged, to live as though You were dead and grace were a mirage.  Where You are not present to forgive, inspire, and energize, how empty are the lives of people, how desolate their futures.

Houses of worship are merely organized piles of lumber, stone, and glass when You are absent.

In the awareness of Your presence, Lord, we are scarcely cognizant of our surroundings.

One Price

The rich are not to give more...the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to atone for your lives (Exodus 30:15).

In Your sight, Lord, all human lives have the same value.  That value is inherent, not determined by the amount of money or goods one possesses.

Sin is a great equalizer, Lord.  "All have sinned" and no price can be paid for any person's redemption except the price You paid--the life of Jesus Christ given up in atoning death.

That offering was "once for all"--all persons, all sins, all time.  Nothing can be added to enhance its value, nothing subtracted to diminish its value.  The death of Jesus has sufficient worth and power to free every sinner forever.  You had nothing greater to give.  We need nothing greater to live.  Jesus is the one, only, and all sufficient offering for sin.

He could not have carried a heavier burden than our sins.  We cannot find a greater liberator than His grace.  Lord, He is my offering of atonement.  He is enough.

Spirit-filled Workers

I have filled him with the Spirit of God...to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship (Exodus 31:3-4).

Lord, the first Spirit-filled person to be named in Your word is a craftsman, a "layman."  You place high value on work well done, work of all kinds.  No kingdom task is holier than another.

It takes "all kinds" of work to carry out the mission of the Church, and each kind demands our human best filled with Your Holy Spirit.  Whether one preaches a sermon, lays a brick, drives a bus, bakes a pie, sweeps a floor, visits a neighbor--whatever--it should be done to the best of one’s ability.

Our best requires that we be Spirit-filled persons.  Your Spirit focuses, inspires, and energizes the work we do for Your house, Your people.

Fill me anew with Your Spirit's presence and power, Lord, for each new assignment You give me.  I want my work to honor You, to reflect You, to proclaim You.

God's Job

I am the Lord who makes you holy (Exodus 31:13).

Lord, some jobs are too big for anyone but You to handle.  Only You, infinite in wisdom and power, could create the universe.  Only You, infinite in holiness and love, can make saints out of sinners.

We cannot make ourselves holy, Lord.  We can desire, resolve, and struggle, imposing all kinds of spiritual disciplines upon ourselves, but sin keeps mocking our efforts.

"Who can cleanse his heart?"  We can't understand our hearts, much less cleanse them.  But You both know and cleanse our hearts, O sanctifying God (Acts 15:8-9).

David knew that only a heart radically cleansed from sin can resource a life steadfastly true.  He also knew that Your creative power alone was sufficient to so cleanse and control.  Out of the depths of his own failure and shame he cried, "Create in me a clean heart, O God."

Only You can answer that spiritual S. O. S., Lord.  I make it my prayer and await in faith Your answer.

The Written Law

...tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God (Exodus 31:18).

Divine origin doesn't guarantee human observance, Lord.  Your laws were being broken even as You inscribed them.  Moses shattered the tablets of stone in anguish over the people who had shattered Your commandments.  Only Your mercy allowed the continued existence of Your rebellious people.  Patiently You rewrote the laws, but disobedience proved habitual for the recipients.

Written law simply cannot furnish a power for obedience.  "The sinful mind is hostile to God.  It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so" (Rom. 8:7).  Until we are inwardly cleansed, until the law is written on our hearts, an element of rebellion defeats our purest intention and hardest effort to be holy.

Your finger must inscribe inwardly what we are to practice outwardly.  Your Holy Spirit must indwell us as the power by which we live in obedience to Your demands.  This You have promised; therefore, this we may experience.

Sinners in A Hurry

They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them (Exodus 32:8).

In a hurry to sin!  What an indictment, Lord!  How corrupt and ungrateful are those who so quickly forget Your mercies.  They can't wait to do wrong.  They scurry away to indulge their passions like rats rushing to a wedge of cheese.  What weak and wicked stuff is fallen human nature!

It doesn't take long to turn away when you are already inclined in that direction.  The moral tendency of the corrupt heart is downward, away from God.  Sin's center of gravity is hell.  Like the demon-infested swine at Gadera, unholy men rush violently downward to self-destruction.

Only You can halt the stampede of sin.  Only You can reverse the direction of moral life.  Only You can purify our hearts.  Until You do, turning away will be our history, Lord.

Put Your Spirit within me.  Cause me to walk in Your statutes.  Keep me moving in the right direction.  Let me be as swift to obey as I once was to turn away.

Prayer Averts Disaster

Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened (Exodus 32:14).

Moses prayed and You relented, Lord.  He pled past mercies and covenant promises.  He was concerned about the glory of Your name, not of his.  He did not diminish the guilt of Israel; he called their sin "great."  But he reckoned on "grace that is greater than all our sin."

Prayer can avert disaster.  Not always, for You refused to hear intercession when You brought upon Israel the judgment of the Exile.  But sometimes You suspend deserved disaster because someone dares to pray.

That makes me wonder, Lord.  How many disasters have people been spared because of prayer--and did not know that was why?  I wonder, too, Lord, how many disasters might have been averted, but no one interceded.

When Your Spirit, or our feelings of compassion, prompt us to pray before impending disasters, we should do so without hesitation.

I think, Lord, that the saddest words in Scripture are, "You do not have, because you do not ask God" (James 4:2).

Out Came This Lie!

Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf! (Exodus 32:24).

Lord, if Aaron sculpted as badly as he lied, that must have been one ugly calf!  He had fashioned that golden calf with a tool (v. 4).  It was shaped by sin, not by fire.

Aaron knew that in this world nothing just happens.  Every effect has a cause.  But desperate men make desperate excuses, excuses as foolish as they are futile.  He saw the anger in Moses' face and doubtless read it as Your anger.

He blamed the people and the fire, not himself--which was patent dishonesty.  Ever since Eden, Lord, people have been prone to point the finger at someone or something else when caught in their sins.  They lie, hoping to divert punishment from one sin by committing another.  Sin makes such fools out of otherwise clever persons.

Your people misused fire to make idols, Lord, but You promised a Fire that would cleanse them from idols.  That's how You are, Lord, tempering judgment with mercy.

No Neutral Zone

Whoever is for the Lord, come to me (Exodus 32:26).

Every person is for You or against You, Lord.  No one can be neutral toward You, and when they pretend to be their consciences brand them as liars.

To be for You, Lord, is to be against evil.  You are "the Holy One" whose whole existence is opposed to sin.  When any person calls You friend but spares Your enemy, he thereby proves himself a hypocrite.  The Psalmist said, "Let those who love the Lord hate evil" (Ps. 97:10).  The Apostle said, "Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God" (1 John 3:10).  And Jesus said, "He who is not with me is against me" (Matt. 12:30).  Lord, that's too plain for even me to miss.

When I chose to be for You, I quickly found many against me.  I preferred Your smile to their frowns, Your promises to their threats.  Like the Psalmist, I have been hated without a reason, my only wrong was choosing right.

Your forgiving fellowship is all that finally matters, Lord.  It out-values all the opposition and wrath of those who oppose You.

Leaders with A Leader

Now go, lead the people...and my angel will go before you (Exodus 32:34).

Lord, You knew that without leadership the people would perish.  Jesus, You saw the masses as sheep without a shepherd, milling about without purpose and direction.  That's how we always are without decisive, capable leaders.

But You also gave the leader a leader--Your angel went before Moses and the people.  Before the people follow the leader they would be wise to ask, "Who leads the leader?"  Unless leaders are guided by You, they are unsafe guides for the people.  You said, Lord Jesus, that "if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit" (Matt. 15:14), and You were referring to religious leaders with political clout.  Our history is crammed with tragic confirmations of that truth.

I will follow You, Lord, by following those whom You are leading.  If any do not follow You I will not follow them.  My aim is "the way," not the pit.

Friend To Friend

The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with a friend (Exodus 33:11).

Lord, no one has a greater Friend than You are.  And no one enjoys a greater communion than with You.  How privileged was Moses!

Much of what he heard I know from Scripture.  But how he heard I can only guess at, Lord.  Did he hear with his ears or his heart?  Was Your voice an audible sound or a spiritual impression?  Could You have been overheard by a curious eavesdropper?  I don't reckon it matters--what was important was the friendship cultivated by Your speech and his response.

In the Old Testament few persons are called Your friends, but in the New Testament "friends" is a designation for all believers.  The privileged few have become the privileged many.

I rejoice to be among the many, Lord.  You are my Friend, and You speak to me.  Through the Bible and by the Spirit You speak to me.  Through preaching and by the Church You speak to me.  Help me to listen closely, obediently, and trustingly, that I may cultivate our friendship.

Companion and Lord

My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest (Exodus 33:14).

What a delightful companion!  When You travel with us, Lord, the roughest road seems smoother, the longest trip seems shorter.  I've traveled enough to know how much a seat mate contributes to the joy or misery of a journey.  Your presence makes the journey homeward a "joy unspeakable and full of glory."

What a delightful destination!  "Rest" is promised, and such a measure of rest is given as we travel that the perfect rest of Your "better country" is increasingly believable as a promise, increasingly attractive as a goal.  How little rest this world affords!  The enemy of rest, I've found, is not work but worry, not toil but pointless or boring activity.  Heaven will be endless service, endlessly invigorating.  "Rest" in heaven will not be static but dynamic; will not be recuperation but sustenance.

On Sundays, Lord, I rest with You.  On all days I rest in You.  One day that rest will become complete and everlasting.  You are my Companion; You are my Destination.

The Ultimate Distinction

What else will distinguish me and your people from all other people on the face of the earth? (Exodus 33:16).

Lord, the vital differences between people are not made by color, class, or culture, but by creed.  They are distinguished more deeply by their concepts of You than by any other factor of their lives.

Like gods, like people.  In my lifetime, those who worshipped "the gods of forces" slaughtered helpless victims by the millions.  You are the God of pardoning love and punishing might, as Moses learned from the Exodus.  Your pardoning love is graciously extended to all who will accept it--no country, no color, no class excluded.  Your punishing might is reserved for those who scorn Your offer of forgiveness, cling to their idols in stubborn defiance, and impose cruel suffering upon Your ransomed and forgiven people.

I rejoice, O Lord, to be a part of those who have experienced, and now proclaim--by words and deeds--Your forgiveness.  That sets me apart, not as a person superior in essence or ability or merit, but in privilege, a privilege that remains open to all others who will believe and receive it.

Prevailing Prayer

I will do the very thing you have asked (Exodus 33:17).

Lord, You yield to the person who yields to Your will.  Your words to Moses are not a blank check.  Answer to prayer has conditions, and they are implied and illustrated in the context.

Moses prayed unselfishly.  His concern was not for personal or material gain, but for the glory of Your name and the good of Your people.

He prayed in response to Your promise, which grounds the specificity of true prayer and the faith of those who pray.  You are faithful to Your Word, not to our whims and wishes.

He prayed as a man who hungered for a deeper knowledge of You.  The place of prayer is not an order desk, Lord; it is a conversation corner where friends can get better acquainted.

Moses asked for nothing contrary to Your will or to his welfare.  You will respond favorably to anyone who prays like that--even to me.  Thank You, Lord, for a lesson in Your school of prayer.

Pleasing Friendship

 I am pleased with you and I know you by name (Exodus 33:17).

Lord, You know me by name.  We are personally acquainted.  But do You take pleasure in our acquaintance, Lord?  Are You happy with my life?  That is my overriding concern today.

I remember how proud my son Bill was because, with 4,000 men aboard the aircraft carrier to which he was assigned, the captain called him by his first name.  But, in sad fact, the captain knew him that well because Bill had been before him so often to be disciplined for absences without leave.  The captain liked him but wasn't pleased with him.

Lord Jesus, You said, "I know my sheep and my sheep know me" (John 10:14).  Good Shepherd, I don't want to be a scrubby or senseless or straying sheep.  I want to hear Your voice and follow You.  I want You to be pleased with me.

My Heart's Cry

Show me your glory (Exodus 33:18).

It seems to me, Lord, that Moses spoke for all in making this request.  Humanity has been haunted throughout its history by the question, "What is God like?"

You said, "...no one may see me and live."  Frail, fallen persons could not survive a full disclosure of Your glory.  You must be veiled to accommodate the limits of our vision.

What are You like?  Only You can answer, and Your fullest answer was given "in the face of Jesus Christ."  He said, 'Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."  Lord God, if I would know You better I must study carefully the human life of Jesus Christ.  "Full of grace and truth," His incarnation revealed Your glory to the extent that mortal beings can behold it and live.

Show me Your glory!  Not to satisfy an intellectual curiosity, but a profound spiritual hunger.  Show me Your glory that I may be changed into Your likeness and enjoy the fullest possible communion with You!

Unchanged Words

I will write on them the words that were on the first         tablets (Exodus 34:1).

Lord, You repeat Your work but You do not repeal Your words.  New tablets of stone were obtained, but the same laws for life were inscribed upon them.  You are compassionate but not capricious.  You extended mercy to a rebellious, ungrateful people, but You did not lower Your demands upon their lives. For Your compassion and Your constancy, I give You praise and thanks today.

You do not purpose to make our lives easy but to make them holy.  You do not change Your law to suit our hearts; You change our hearts to suit Your law.  You have promised to write Your laws upon our minds and hearts.  Until that is done, our situation is aptly symbolized by the broken tablets that demonstrated the anguish of Moses and provoked Your anger.  When that is done, our situation is symbolized by the second tablets that demonstrated Your patient, forgiving love.

Erase and polish my heart, O God, and write upon it Your will for my life.

Pity and Power

The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God... (Exodus 34:6).

Pity and power are perfectly harmonized in You, Lord.  That splendid combination is our only hope of salvation from sin.  Loveless power would destroy us, for we justly deserve to be wiped out.  Our sins testify against us, and justice without mercy could only mean our eternal ruin.

Powerless love could only sympathize--it could not save.  That You pitied us would be cold comfort if You were helpless to deliver us from sin's bondage.  When we are suffering and crying for help, our friends often hurt for us but cannot help us.  Our problems and needs are beyond their resources.  If that were true of Your resources, we would be goners, Lord.

You are both powerfully loving and lovingly powerful.  You pity us, but You do not wring Your hands in frustration, unable to save us.  You come because You care and You change us because You can.

Lord, I can never cease from praising You, whose glory is expressed in lordship exercised in love.

Privilege and Responsibility

I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world (Exodus 34:10).

Being Your chosen people conferred great privileges upon Israel, Lord.  But the greater our privileges the greater our responsibilities--and the greater our punishments when we fail Your covenant.

Like Your works, our duties and liabilities are "awesome."  "I will do wonders" is followed by "Obey what I command" (v. 11).  Grace enables law, and law expresses grace.  We are not given one without the other.  Law without grace is a sentence of doom.  We stand hopeless and condemned before Your broken law.  Grace without law is a license to sin, a license You never issue.  Your command to those You save is, "Sin no more."  Lord Jesus, You taught that much is required of those to whom much has been given.  Privilege measures obligation.

Lord, in Your graciousness You have given much to me.  Help me to faithfully labor to proclaim and exhibit the power of Your saving love.

Not Empty-handed

No one is to appear before me empty-handed (Exodus 34:20).

To "redeem" the firstborn, Lord, was to acknowledge You as Creator and Redeemer of all.  Communion with You required the redemption price.

Both what You give and what You take are expressions of Your love.  Your commands teach me that "the wages of sin is death."  Apart from the offered lamb the donkey died.  Apart from Jesus, Your Lamb, whose atoning sacrifice redeems all who believe, none can live.

I come before You, Lord, with my hands filled with His sacrifice.  He is my Lamb, my redemption price from all sin and death, my access to Your throne of grace.

"My hope is built on nothing less / Than Jesus' blood and righteousness."  But that is sufficient, Lord, now and forever.

Lord, only the empty-headed would come before You empty-handed.  I am neither thoughtless nor heartless.  I know my need and trust Your provision.

The Best

Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God (Exodus 34:26).

Even my best is a poor offering of thanks, Lord.  All I can say in its defense is that it sincerely expresses my gratitude and that You are gracious enough to receive it.

I have no firstfruits from my soil, but I have some from my toil.  Money is money--how can any of it be labeled "best"?  I can honor You by giving my tithes and offerings priority over all expenditures.

If money is to be my best, then the activities by which it is earned must receive my best efforts.  I cannot be slack or sloppy in my work. I must do the best preaching and writing of which I am capable, supported by fidelity in study and in prayer.

I am in a position, then, of having to give my service to people in order to bring my best offerings to You.  I ask You today to help me to live at my best so that I can give of my best.

Commander, Not Advisor

And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant--the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:28).

Man advises, Lord, but You command.  You allow us freedom to reject Your commands.  It is the same freedom a person has to defy gravity by leaping from the roof of a hotel.  Disobedience to Your laws is self-destruction.

Grace precedes law, as the preamble to the Ten Commandments clearly attests.  But grace does not negate law.  Whom You redeem You also rule.  Deliverance from sin does not bring freedom to do as we please; it frees us to do as You please.

You laws are a burden only to the lawless, Lord.  Persons seeking to be autonomous hate Your law, but those seeking true human fulfillment find Your law a welcome guide to a holy and happy life.

Write Your new covenant upon my heart, Lord.  Your will is my true freedom.

Warm and Willing Hearts

Everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him came and brought an offering to the Lord (Exodus 35:21).

I have learned, Lord, that warm hearts will part with cold cash.

What I have never understood is how anyone can think about divine love and look upon human need and not be moved.

That You have redeemed us should make any person willing to give generously and joyfully to Your work.

Those unwilling to give are idolaters, Lord.  Their god is their goods, and in that idol they seek identify and security--and find neither.

Lord, I have nothing, I want nothing, that I am unwilling to give to You and to share with others.  I will not serve Mammon, nor will I be intimidated by those who do.  You can requisition my life and my goods as You will.  I want my living and giving to spring from a heart purified from sin and motivated by love.

Avoiding Two Problems

Moses summoned...every skilled person...who was willing to come and do the work (Exodus 36:2).

Moses wisely avoided two common problems, Lord.

One problem is caused by the unskilled who are willing; another by the skilled who are unwilling.  Neither do good work, and You are not honored by sloppy work.

The unskilled can often be trained.  The unwilling can sometimes be motivated.  Until they are, neither should be recruited for Your work.  Your house and Your cause deserve our very best gladly volunteered.

Lack of ability can be remedied, because You confer upon some "the ability to teach others" (35:34).  Teaching others extends the teacher.  Teaching lightens the work by increasing the workers.

A much harder task is imposed by the lack of availability.  How to enlist and enthuse the skilled who are indifferent is a major challenge to church leaders.  Lord, grant to the leaders of our church the ability to train the unskilled and to stir the unwilling.

More Than Enough

The people were restrained from bringing more, because              what they already had was more than enough to do all the work (Exodus 36:6-7).

Lord, as a veteran of pastoral ministry I can't read this passage without marveling.  I well know that "more than enough" is less than usual in the history of offerings.  Your people have had to be restrained from many things, including fussing, but this may be the only time they had to be restrained from giving.  Surely, Lord, Moses should be named the patron saint of fund-raisers.

Thinking positively, Lord, the Church never has more than enough.  We don't have more than enough money, buildings, equipment, workers or prayers.  Only in negative terms do we have more than enough.  Just one is more than enough cynics, doubters, grouches or hypocrites.

Of all good things, things necessary to the fulfillment of our mission, give us enough, O Lord.  More than enough is not beyond Your power to give, but is beyond my ability to ask.

An afterthought, Lord: If they had "more than enough" there must have been no politicians involved.

The Secret of Spiritual Health

...as the Lord commanded Moses... Exodus 39:1).

Lord, if I counted accurately, this phrase occurs 16 times in this context.  It has deep significance.  For me it contains the secret of spiritual health--obedience to divine sovereignty expressed through human agency.

You did not furnish construction details to the people or even to a committee.  You spoke to one man, Moses, and he conveyed Your words to the others.  When he spoke, therefore, he did so with Your authority, for You summoned him to hear and to relay the divine word.  The people's response to him was their response to You.

Their confidence in Moses as Your spokesman had been well earned by his own obedience to Your revealed will.  Moses practiced what he preached, at whatever personal cost to himself.  Such leaders may be safely followed.  Those who preach truth and practice lies are not Your agents with Your authority.  They deserve only to be condemned and ignored.

"The Israelites did everything" just as You commanded Moses.  Had they fashioned their lives as they did their tabernacle, how different would have been their history!

Lord, make and keep me obedient.

Inspection and Blessing

Moses inspected the work... Moses blessed them (Exodus 39:43).

Instruction.  Construction.  Inspection.  Benediction.  These four words summarize the building of the "Tent of Meeting," Lord.  They should summarize every project I undertake at Your command, especially the building of my character and life.

To pass inspection and to receive blessing should be the goal of all work.  My life is not to be self-centered or self-contained, Lord, but devoted to Your glory and to others' good.

My work will be inspected and judged.  Indeed, it is being examined and evaluated constantly, by others and by myself.  These inspections and judgments scarcely matter, as Paul realized and affirmed:  "I care very little if I am judged by you [the church] or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself... It is the Lord who judges me" (1 Cor. 4:3-4).

Lord, I will certainly be judged by You, but will I be blessed?  Only if I am first forgiven!

The Glory

The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle  (Exodus 40:34).

Your house is not Your glory, Lord.  Rather, You are the glory of that house.  When You depart, the glory is gone, as later chapters of Israel's history disclose.

The "Tent of Meeting" was carefully planned and superbly crafted, Lord, but its glory was not a matter of design and craftsmanship.  Its glory was Your presence, purely and simply.

Your glory was symbolized visibly by the cloud that directed Israel's travels day and night.  From this I conclude, Lord, that the content of "glory" is Your presence expressed in Your guidance.  Happy are the pilgrims whose journey is determined by Your guiding presence.

You have made me such a pilgrim, Lord.  Matching strides with You, I am out of step with the world, which deems me a fool.  But they do not know the cloud I see or the cadence I hear.  Your glory fills my heart as I walk with You.