Week 12 – Sold Out to God (The Shema, Part 1)

Growing up, I never did Black Friday shopping, but my wife convinced me to go with her once early in our marriage. I will never forget the site as we pulled into the parking lot of Target. It was dark and freezing cold, yet, the faint light from the light poles provided enough visibility to see a line of bundled-up shoppers that extended from the front doors down the length of the parking lot! After seeing the mob awaiting the opening of the doors, we decided to travel to another Target in hopes of lessening our chances of becoming like Mufassa, who experienced death by a stampede in Disney’s The Lion King. Much to our excitement, the second Target had a much smaller crowd of deal seekers. We walked right in just after a few minutes of their being opened to find the specific treasures that had drawn us out into the craziness. I can’t remember what Steph was looking for, but I wanted to find a fire pit that was wildly marked down. We were still newlyweds, and money was tight when it came to splurging on extras. This sale was a way that I could afford to splurge on a personal desire. We frantically searched for these fire pits until we came upon an empty display where probably no more than five of those pits could have sat! I couldn’t believe it! These firepits were advertised as one of their biggest deals, and they only had a handful, and they had already been sold!

As bad as I hoped to buy a fire pit and enjoy a fire and smores with Stephanie on a date night at the time, I couldn’t make another one appear. The store couldn’t go to the back and bring out another because they were entirely out; there wasn’t another to grab. They were sold out, and since they were sold out, nothing was left for anyone else. While I believe that it is inappropriate for a store to have a handful of an item that they mass promoted available on a Black Friday only to sell out of them in a matter of minutes after opening, I also believe that the Bible challenges us to be like these limited supply of fire pits, being completely sold out to God with nothing leftover, held back from Him. However, often times we find ourselves completely depleted, giving ourselves to everyone and everything else with nothing left over for Him. This week’s Scripture will help us see what is keeping us from being a devoted follower of Jesus. Next week, the Shema will also help us consider what it means to be completely sold out to God.

Continuing our journey, we briefly examine Numbers, the fourth book of our Scriptures. After the Israelites receive the ten words, case laws, and the way God expected them to worship Him, He leads them north to the border of the land that God promised to give them as His people. At this location, twelve men are selected to go into the land of Canaan and check it out and provide a report of their findings to the people upon their return. Upon their return, all twelve spies agreed that the land was great! It was indeed a land flowing with milk and honey. However, ten of the twelve spies didn’t believe that God could give them the land as He had promised. Unfortunately, these ten convinced the Israelites as a whole of this too.

When you think about the context in which this decision of unbelief is made, it is almost unbelievable that this is the direction and counsel that this generation of Israelites traveled. This same group of people experienced God’s power as He delivered them from Egypt and displayed His superiority over the pantheon of gods and goddesses through the ten plagues. These Israelites saw God part the Red Sea so that they could safely travel to the other side and saw the same walls of water that provided them a highway to travel crash down upon their enemy and close in a watery grave for them. These were the same people who had experienced the visible presence of God as a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. They had heard the voice of God from Mount Sinai, received His law, and entered into a covenant relationship with Him. He had already demonstrated His provision for them with manna new every morning (except for the Sabbath). Yet, they did not believe that the LORD could give them this land because of the might of its inhabitants.

Since the people of God did not believe in the promise of God, He led them south into the wilderness. Over the next forty years, the nation spent its time in the wilderness until all that generation who did not believe that Yahweh would give them the land died. Once the unbelieving had passed away, Moses, along with Joshua and Caleb, and a new generation of Israelites found themselves at the border of the promised land. The book of Deuteronomy begins with Moses summarizing the teachings of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers to the people before they enter the land God is giving them. The summary reminds them of the overall covenant stipulations, a blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience but doesn’t stop before explaining practical reasons for this obedience and how embracing these practical truths allows us to communicate our love to God, our Mighty Redeemer.

What do we learn from Deuteronomy?

Deuteronomy teaches us that there is only one God, and His name is Yahweh.

Deuteronomy 6:4

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.

Deuteronomy teaches us the theological truth that there is only one God, and He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the ancient world, this claim of only one God was unique. Other ancient cultures had a pantheon of gods and goddesses, and some even had a hierarchy of deities within those pantheons. Some ancient cultures even included the practice of ancestor worship. This belief in monotheism was countercultural then, and with our increasingly pluralistic culture, those who hold to the revelation of the Triune God through the Bible as being the only God will also find themselves more and more at odds with a culture whose embracing of universalism continues to grow.

However, the Israelites could embrace the truth of one God because He had revealed Himself to them in mighty and precise ways (Deuteronomy 4:35-39). We as believers can also remain faithful to the Biblical doctrine of monotheism because God has revealed Himself to us in many ways through the prophets, His Word, and His Son (Hebrews 1:1-3). He has displayed His power in our lives by freeing us from sin (Romans 6:18; Colossians 1:18), the abiding presence of His Spirit (Romans 8:16), increasing Christlikeness (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18), and answering prayers (Psalm 145:18).

Since there is only one God, worshipping anything other than Him is wrong.

Deuteronomy 4:15-19

“But be very careful! You did not see the Lord’s form on the day he spoke to you from the heart of the fire at Mount Sinai. 16 So do not corrupt yourselves by making an idol in any form—whether of a man or a woman, 17 an animal on the ground, a bird in the sky, 18 a small animal that scurries along the ground, or a fish in the deepest sea. 19 And when you look up into the sky and see the sun, moon, and stars—all the forces of heaven—don’t be seduced into worshiping them. The Lord your God gave them to all the peoples of the earth.

Logically, the flow of thought is that if Yahweh is alone God, then to worship anything other than Him is wrong. There is no wonder that the first two words given to the people in Exodus were not to have any other gods except for Him and not to make any images to worship. Before going any further, let me ask you this question.

Are you a monotheist or a polytheist? Do you believe in one God or many gods?

Depending on where you currently find yourself in your spiritual journey or search for God, you may say that you still lean towards the idea of there being many gods. Maybe you find yourself holding to a belief system of there being many gods, and if that is you, please continue reading or skim down to find the link to watch a video that explains how the God of the Bible has revealed Himself as the one true God by revealing the depth of His love that He has for you as one made in His image!

For those of you who are reading and are a follower of Jesus, you most likely answered my question with ease and without hesitation. However, let me present the question from a slightly different angle. We will look at this question from a different perspective by first defining what God or a god is.

God is whatever we worship.

How do we know what we worship?

The God we worship is whatever we take absolute delight in, what we value the most, what we find our happiness or joy in, or what we spend most of our time and money pursuing and attaining.

So we do well to ask ourselves once again, are we a practicing monotheist or a practicing polytheist? Do we have Jesus simply as a chief god among many gods or God alone? Do we have any idols in our lives?

At age 47, the writer William Giraldi’s father died tragically in a motorcycle accident. Giraldi’s father was a decent husband and father, but he also had a possession that he seemed to cherish more than anything—his motorcycle. Every Sunday for most of his adult life, he cruised the highways with his biker companions. His life advice often focused on two words: Ride hard. Eventually, his dedication to riding at “insane speeds” would lead to his death.

After his father’s death, William tried to make sense of and then write about his father’s zeal for biking. The younger Giraldi visited the accident scene and talked to the coroner who had examined his father’s mangled body. For his final stop, Giraldi and his uncle stopped in at the motorcycle shop where they had inspected his father’s bike.

Giraldi writes:

[The mechanics] at the shop looked at my uncle and me and solemnly nodded in respect: a comrade had fallen, and we were the comrade’s family …. these men on motorcycles reveled in the camaraderie, the bond; they were a band of primordial hunters out for the kill that would sustain them …. [My father belonged to] a private club that chose its members carefully. It was noble to be part of this thrill that was larger than each of them. Every Sunday the ride replaced God, a substituting savior.

After reading this tragic story, you can quickly identify Giraldi’s father’s idol. There is nothing wrong with motorcycles or friendship with others that share your passions; these things only become problematic when they become the gods we worship instead of reasons to worship our God. The same goes for all the things we enjoy or are sources of fun and pleasure. I like sports, fishing, playing video games, and good food, and I love spending time with my wife and kids. All of these things and people that I find enjoyment in should be cause for worship but never be the center of my worship. We can enjoy everything God has given us, but they cannot be the source of our supreme joy nor consume us.

When God’s gifts of grace become gods where we place our faith, they become counterfeit saviors. For Mr. Giraldi and anyone who follows his same path of idolatry, anything substituted for the Savior will, one way or another, ruin their lives and the lives of those around them. One of the mechanics told Giraldi’s son, “… to go out doing what you love … that’s the only way to die. It’s honorable.” But William wrote: “Of course, I don’t believe that … There’s nothing honorable about dying a violent death at forty-seven years old and leaving behind a score of family members whose lives are all ruined in some way.”

So how about you? Is there a motorcycle in your life? Is there a life’s creed you live by other than something found in God’s Word? Is your heart’s supreme focus on knowing and living for Jesus, or have you substituted Him for a counterfeit savior? These false saviors are dangerous for your well-being and the well-being of others in your life, in the present, and possibly negatively affect their choices that affect their eternity. What would you be doing if you were to die doing what you loved? Would it ruin those closest to you or inspire them to love Jesus sacrificially and wholly?

Before quickly answering, prayerfully reflect upon your own life by using the questions above to know what you genuinely worship and who or what has your heart’s supreme devotion. If it is anyone or anything but God may we confess our sin to God, receive His forgiveness, and make Luke 4:8 our prayer.

Jesus said to Satan,

‘You must worship the Lord your God
    and serve only him.

Interested in knowing more about the God of the Bible who claims to be the one true God and how He has demonstrated His love for you? Click on the cross below to discover how you can know your Creator relationally immediately! If you make the decision to follow Jesus, please let me know. I would be honored to celebrate with you and walk with you as you walk with Jesus.


Week 11: The Holiness of God (Leviticus)

Introduction to Leviticus

This third book of our Bible continues the instructions given to Moses by God at Mount Sinai. Leviticus can be a book of the Bible that we can struggle to read through since it contains instructions for animal sacrifices, seemingly strange civil laws, and purification rituals, among other things. However, the big idea of Leviticus is God’s holiness and His concern for the holiness of His people, as summarized in the following passages.

Leviticus 11:44a

For I am the Lord your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.

Leviticus 11:45

For I, the Lord, am the one who brought you up from the land of Egypt, that I might be your God. Therefore, you must be holy because I am holy.

Leviticus 18:2-4

“Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. I am the Lord your God. So do not act like the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan, where I am taking you. You must not imitate their way of life. You must obey all my regulations and be careful to obey my decrees, for I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 19:8

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

What does Leviticus teach us?

I agree that on the surface, the book of Leviticus could also be titled “Stranger Things.” Yet, these basic principles mentioned earlier and confirmed by the verses surveyed above remind us that this book is as relevant to us as they were to God’s people over 3,000 years ago. The book reveals the holiness of our God, the seriousness of our sins, and aspects of God’s forgiveness.

Leviticus teaches us that God is holy.

The God of the Bible is a holy God. God doesn’t sin. He is incapable of sinning. Being holy, God is separate from sin. We have already seen several examples already of how man’s sinfulness hinders our relationship with God because of His holiness. In Genesis three, we see Adam and Eve evicted from Eden because of their sinfulness. In Exodus 3, Moses is instructed to take of his sandals because the place where he was standing was holy ground. That particular piece of land where he was standing was holy because the God that occupied the burning bush was a holy God. At the base of Mount Sinai, the LORD orders a boundary set up around the base of the mountain that no person or animal should cross God was going to dwell on the mountain to give Moses the covenant stipulations. The people were also to consecrate and purify themselves before this momentous meeting took place between God and their leader.

The people were so afraid of God, His power, and His holiness that they asked Moses to relay His messages to them instead of the LORD speaking to them directly. Despite seeing God deliver them from Egypt, parting the Red Sea, and drowning Pharoah’s army, the further revelation of God at Mount Sinai made them more aware of their sinfulness. This greater revelation of God’s holiness and their sinfulness prepared them for seeing the necessity of a sacrifice to make them right with Him, restore them to Him, and cover their sins so that He might continue to dwell with them.

Leviticus continually points us to the truth of God’s absolute purity, reminding us of our being pollutive and need for purifying.

What do the Levitical Sacrifices teach us?

Leviticus tells us about many types of sacrifices, but most of them have the same or at least similar processes and procedures. Let’s take a look at the instructions given by God surrounding the Burnt Offering to help us see what the sacrifices teach us about sin and forgiveness.

Leviticus 1:3-9

“If the animal you present as a burnt offering is from the herd, it must be a male with no defects. Bring it to the entrance of the Tabernacle so you may be accepted by the Lord. Lay your hand on the animal’s head, and the Lord will accept its death in your place to purify you, making you right with him. Then slaughter the young bull in the Lord’s presence, and Aaron’s sons, the priests, will present the animal’s blood by splattering it against all sides of the altar that stands at the entrance to the Tabernacle. Then skin the animal and cut it into pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest will build a wood fire on the altar. They will arrange the pieces of the offering, including the head and fat, on the wood burning on the altar. But the internal organs and the legs must first be washed with water. Then the priest will burn the entire sacrifice on the altar as a burnt offering. It is a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

What do the sacrifices teach us about sin?

Simply put, sin is breaking God’s rules. As you read Exodus and Leviticus, the LORD never asked Moses, Aaron, Miriam, or anyone else for their thoughts on what laws He should give His redeemed people. No, each rule was given to them by God; they were God’s commands, so to break one of them was to sin against God since they came from God Himself. Now, of course, when we wrong one another, we have sinned against one another, but ultimately we have sinned against God because by wronging someone else, we have violated one of God’s directions. We have already encountered a great example of this principle in Genesis in how Joseph responds to Potiphar’s wife as she tries to get him to sleep with her.

Genesis 39:7-9

Potiphar’s wife soon began to look at him lustfully. “Come and sleep with me,” she demanded.

But Joseph refused. “Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.”

Joseph knew that if he slept with Potiphar’s wife that he would be sinning against Potiphar. However, Joseph knew that such an act would ultimately be against God, who had designed and ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman back in Eden. His act of adultery, if committed, would certainly affect Potiphar, but it would ultimately break a command of God.

All sin is, first and foremost, a rebellion against God, so we must approach Him for forgiveness. Yes, if I wrong my wife, she can forgive me, and her willingness to do so helps restore our relationship, but her forgiveness doesn’t make me right with God. You will not see any instructions for offering a sacrifice to Moses, Aaron, or anyone else but God in Leviticus 1:3-9 or anywhere else. God is the only one who can grant forgiveness when we rebel against Him. I have to go to God in genuine repentance for breaking His command by treating my wife harshly instead of with understanding and respect (1 Peter 3:7). Only when I approach God, sorrowful over my sin and aware of my need for His forgiveness will I receive His grace, mercy, and deliverance in that area of my life.

Notice that the one who offered the sacrifice for the burnt offering in Leviticus 1:3-9 was a participant in the process and not just the observer. The person was to select and take one of the animals of their herd and bring it to the Tabernacle. They were to lay their hand upon the animal chosen that would die for their sin and slaughter it themselves. After the priests splattered the animal’s blood on all sides of the altar, the worshiper was to skin the animal and cut it into pieces. We then see the priests set the offering ablaze on the altar. When the person carried out the sacrificial ritual with faith and sincerity, the offering was a pleasing aroma to the LORD. Verse 9 reinforces who the one making the sacrifice sinned against and needed to receive forgiveness from, but also shows us that we must go to Him aware of our sin and our need for His forgiveness.

What do the sacrifices teach us about forgiveness?

God is a forgiving God.

The sacrifices teach us that God is a forgiving God. God could be holy, loving, and just without being forgiving. Since we deserve death as payment for our sins (Romans 6:23) and since no one can earn a right standing before God (Romans 3:19-20). God would still be holy and loving as He rendered a righteous judgment on us as lawbreakers with an eternal sentence to hell. BUT GOD is also gracious, compassionate, and merciful who desires that none should perish but that all should come to repentance (Exodus 34:6-7; 2 Peter 3:9). The LORD had made way for Him to dwell among His people despite their sinfulness by establishing the Tabernacle as His dwelling place and a sacrificial system to cover the debt of their sins. All of this foreshadowed what God would ultimately accomplish through Jesus on the cross!

God allows for a substitute to pay for our wrongdoings against Him.

Though every one of the Israelites sinned against God, He allowed an animal to die in their place instead of requiring that they die for their sin. When a person would place their hand on the animal’s head that was to be sacrificed, they were symbolically transferring their sins and guilt and needed payment for their sin upon that animal. The animal then died in their place, shedding its blood to cover the debt owed to God because of their sin. Every sacrifice made, even up to the Passover lambs being slaughtered while Jesus hung on the cross, pointed to God allowing Jesus to be our substitute, to die in our place, to shed His blood, covering in full our sin debt to a holy God—an innocent dying to set the guilty free, or as Peter described the righteous for the unrighteous.

1 Peter 3:18

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.

Because Christ’s death made amends between a holy God and sinners, forgiveness is possible because Jesus’ sinless perfection met God’s perfect standards. While God’s forgiveness is available to all, God’s forgiveness is not at all automatic.

God’s forgiveness is not automatic.

The LORD told His covenant people that He would forgive their sins and how to receive this forgiveness. His forgiveness would be available to all who adhere to the sacrificial rituals according to God’s directions. However, God’s forgiveness wasn’t automatic. In other words, there was more to receiving atonement for one’s sin than just going through religious rituals. Sacrifices had to be made with a genuine faith and repentant attitude in addition to works keeping with repentance to receive God’s forgiveness for their sins and the ones they were representing. The Israelites struggled with empty religious activity during Isaiah’s ministry.

Isaiah 1:11-15

“What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?”
    says the Lord.
“I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood
    of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to worship me,
    who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
    the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
    and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
    I want no more of your pious meetings.
14 I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
    They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!
15 When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look.
    Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen,
    for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.

We see that when the Israelites offered sacrifices and celebrated the feasts of the LORD absent of a heart devotion for Him and sincerity, they made Him sick to His stomach! These empty sacrifices and celebrations were anything but a pleasing aroma to Him and left His people void of His presence and forgiveness in their lives. So even though God’s forgiveness was available, it wasn’t automatically received when His people simply went through the motions of external rituals without internal repentance. Receiving God’s forgiveness isn’t like putting money in the vending machine and automatically receiving our desired item just because we went through the correct process. Instead, the Knower of people’s hearts (1 Samuel 16:7; Luke 16:15) required them then and us today to follow His pathway to forgiveness with faith and sincerity.

Leviticus prepares us for the cross.

Hebrews 10:1-5

The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared.

But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God,

“You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings.
    But you have given me a body to offer.

Hebrews explains that the old system under the law of Moses pointed to the need for another sacrifice than that of animals to make people right with Him. The only acceptable sacrifice to appease the wrath of a holy God would be God the Son in the flesh. As man, Jesus could die as a representative of all humanity, and as God, He could fully meet God’s holy requirements. To receive God’s forgiveness through Jesus, we in faith follow the same process that the Israelites did under the sacrificial system.

A – We must Agree with God that we are sinners.

By taking an animal to the entrance of the Tabernacle to be sacrificed on one’s behalf, they were agreeing with God that they were breakers of His law. Today, we agree with God that we are sinners by admitting our need for Jesus to make us right with Him because our sin has interrupted our relationship with Him.

B – Believe that God alone can save us.

Once we admit our need to be rescued from our sins, we need to believe that God will forgive our sins through the process He has given. The Israelites had to have faith that by offering an animal to die in their place according to God’s guidelines, He would be faithful to do what He said He would do and forgive them. We, too, experience forgiveness of our sins and rescue from the punishment of our sins through faith. For us, it is not faith in the sacrificial of old but in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are to believe that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

C – Commit ourselves to God.

Standing before the Tabernacle and the altar, the Israelites were committing themselves to God, following His ways, and loving Him supremely. They expressed their desire to be in His presence and restored. The Bible tells us that our genuine belief in Christ will lead us to be committed to Him and His ways. A sincere belief will cause us to long to be in His presence, enjoy our restored relationship with Him while on this earth, and look forward to the day that our home is with Him for all eternity. This inward commitment will result in external works glorifying our heavenly Father (Isaiah 1:16-17; Matthew 5:16).

Ready to experience new life in Jesus? If so, check out the video at the end of this post!

For those of us who already enjoy a restored relationship with the Father through the Son, may we ask of and rely upon the Holy Spirit to guard us against becoming people who go through the motions of external religious activity that sickens the God who redeemed us and robs us from the ongoing redeeming work that He desires to do in our lives.


Week 10 – The Presence of God

My youngest loves to ask, “why?” I asked him while lying in bed with him the other night why did he like to ask why? His response was surprising for a three-year-old. Gavin said, “Cause I like to talk to people.” His answer is more profound than we might think; even as a three-year-old child (now four), his response reminds us that even at a young age, we desire to have relationships with others.

God created people in His image; part of that is being relational creatures. From eternity past, our Triune God has existed in a perfectly harmonious relationship with each member of the Godhead. God is a relational being within Himself, and since He created us in His image, we are capable and desire to be in a relationship with one another and can commune with our Creator God.

This week’s focus is the remaining chapters of Exodus. These yet-covered chapters of Exodus reveal God’s desire to be present among His people! To explore this dumbfounding truth, we, too, must begin by asking, “Why?”

Why did God create everything?

When my oldest son was younger, he thought the lyrics of the beloved Christmas song, Go Tell It On The Mountain, went like this,

“Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ was bored.”

It’s as if God the Son had nothing better to do, so He thought I’ll just be born a human and fulfill the Father’s rescue plan for saving rebellious sinners. But we understand this is not the case (now, my son does, too). He came to offer Himself the once and for all perfect sacrifice to provide a way for fallen people to enjoy the presence of God at the moment of salvation and for all eternity (Hebrews 10:3-10; 13:14).

God created everything so that He might dwell among His creation.

God created everything so that He might dwell among His creation.
In the same way that Landyn mistakenly understood the lyrics to this beloved song, many mistakenly think that God created everything because He was bored. Others might say that God created everything because he needed to be worshiped, served, or valued by someone or something. However, Genesis 1:1 reminds us that God is supreme over and separate from His creation. The Bible tells us that God is the source of life and that He is the One who gives life to everything. While the created order and His people worship Him, He does not need our worship to make Him complete or sustain Him. 1 John 4:7 reminds us that God is love and that love comes from God. For all of eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have shared a passion for one another that is entirely pure, selfless, and perfect. The Bible shows us that God created so that this same love shared among the members of the Trinity could overflow towards and over His creation.

Quality time is one of the five love languages made famous by Gary Chapman. Quality time is the highest love language of each of our three oldest kids. To summarize, you feel most loved by spending quality time with someone. If this is how your love tank is filled, presence and not presents is most important to you. Stephanie and I share this same love language, though words of affirmation are a close second for me. If you know that your spouse, child, parent, or friend feels most loved by you when you spend quality time with them, then you love them by being with them, removing all possible distractions, and doing something or conversing with them. Our God demonstrates His love for us using all five love languages throughout the Bible!

Throughout the first three chapters of Genesis, we see the LORD present with Adam. He formed Adam from the dust of the ground, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and God spoke to Him as we would to each other today, it seems. The LORD God was hands-on and personal with the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib too. God created people in His image so He could have fellowship with us, not out of personal necessity but because He wanted to. I think the most apparent instance that communicates how God intended to commune with people is in Genesis 3:8, where the LORD came down in the cool of the evening to spend time with Adam and Eve face to face. Though this depth of intimacy is what our God intended between Him and us, Adam and Eve’s sin disrupted this unhindered presence of God among His creation.

God’s unhindered presence was disrupted.

Because God is a holy God, completely separate from sin, our sin separates us from Him. Sin places a barrier between God and us. Moses illustrates this barrier in Genesis 3:23-24 with God banishing the original couple from the garden. At the end of Genesis 3, we have a sinless Creator and a sinful creation. The rest of Scripture shows how a holy God deals with a rebellious creation, redeeming it so that He can fully dwell with it unhindered again!

In Exodus 6:7, God reveals that He will deliver the Israelites from Egypt and has chosen them to be His people. They will play the primary role in providing the means to reconcile a sinless Creator and a sinful creation. In Exodus 19:5, the LORD lays out the conditions of the covenant He is making with them and then provides them with the ten words, better known as the ten commandments so that they know who He is more fully and how they are to relate to Him (how they are to keep His covenant stipulations). Following God giving Moses the ten words, He also provides instructions for the Tabernacle. In short, the Tabernacle would be the place that allowed God to be present among His people and maintain His holiness amid their sinfulness.

Exodus 25:8-9

Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among themYou must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you.

As Moses was experiencing God’s presence and receiving God’s revelation, the Israelites became impatient and pressured Aaron into leading them into idol worship. The record describing the judgment of those who either led the worthless worship or who wouldn’t repent of their idol worship were slaughtered by the Levites. Exodus 33:35 also lets us know that God sent a plague upon His people because they had worshiped the calf that Aaron had made. Admittedly I cringe at how the LORD disciplined His people for their idolatry, but their example reinforces the holiness of our God and how grave sin is in His eyes. I also believe that it shows us how far God will go to remove anything that will lead the people He loves away from Himself and toward destruction. If God had left this rebellion unchecked, there is no telling how many more of His covenant people might have been deceived and led away from the only God in which life and salvation are found.

Paul tells the Corinthians that Israel’s idolatry, their actions, and God’s reactions, were recorded for them to warn them not to follow in their footsteps and invite God’s discipline upon their lives. 1 Corinthians 10:11 also applies to us today as those living at the end of the age. Here we are provided with an example to avoid as we look at the generation of Israelites who quickly spiraled into idol worship even after seeing how worthless and powerless the pantheon of false Egyptian gods was against Yahweh. Some believe that the calf represented the Egyptian bull god, Apis. It is a sobering challenge and reminder to give our worship and allegiance to the only One who is worthy, the God who delivered us and Who will safely guide us home (Exodus 15:11-13)! Because of the peoples’ collective rebellion and apostasy through their idolatry, on top of the Levites slaughtering 3,000 people and God sending a plague, the LORD also decides to withdraw from His people.

Exodus 33:1-3

The Lord said to Moses, “Get going, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt. Go up to the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I told them, ‘I will give this land to your descendants.’ And I will send an angel before you to drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. Go up to this land that flows with milk and honey. But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people. If I did, I would surely destroy you along the way.”

Because of their rebellion, the people do not get to experience God’s presence. However, Moses gets to experience the presence of God, unlike the rest of the people (with the possible exception of Joshua, see Exodus 33:11).

Exodus 33:7-11

It was Moses’ practice to take the Tent of Meeting and set it up some distance from the camp. Everyone who wanted to make a request of the Lord would go to the Tent of Meeting outside the camp.

Whenever Moses went out to the Tent of Meeting, all the people would get up and stand in the entrances of their own tents. They would all watch Moses until he disappeared inside. As he went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and hover at its entrance while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 When the people saw the cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, they would stand and bow down in front of their own tents. 11 Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting.

Because Moses demonstrated his love for the LORD through His obedience to Him (John 15:14-15; James 2:23), he could enjoy God in a way reminiscent of how Adam and Eve enjoyed God’s presence in the Garden of Eden. It would be a mistake to point out that we cannot earn friendship with God. We cannot obey Him 100% of the time, and neither could Moses. However, by God’s grace through faith, we are made right with Him, and as a result, we are no longer His enemies but His friends (Romans 5:7-10; Ephesians 2:8-9), and His Spirit gives us the desire and ability to demonstrate our love for Him through our obedience to Him.

Like Abraham, Moses was also made right with God and became a friend of God, not through perfect obedience as Scripture plainly shows, but through his faith in God, who forgives sinners (Romans 4:1-5). Thus because of God’s grace and Moses’ faith in Yahweh, he could experience His presence unlike everyone else (again, possibly with the exception of Joshua).

Do we desire to know God at this depth? Do we want to experience His presence so thickly? If so, here is what we must do according to these verses as God’s people.

Step 1: Reserve a sacred space to meet with God.

Exodus 33:7 tells us that it was Moses’ practice, his habit, to take the Tent of Meeting and set it a distance outside the camp. Moses had a sacred place where he would fellowship with God. We must have a specific time and place to have a sacred space.

I couldn’t confirm whether Moses had a specific time outside the camp to meet with God in this temporary tent. However, we know he did so regularly; thus, his example encourages us to do the same. We need to meet with God regularly, and due to all the distractions that vie for our attention and affection, it would be wise to set a specific time each day aside for you to commune with our Savior.

We also need to have a specific place to meet with God. Moses’ place was this portable tent. Moses had to be intentional and willing to put forth an effort to have a sacred space to be with God.

Moses was a man who had countless responsibilities, and people needed him for various things as God’s appointed leader of this newly formed nation. Yet, Moses knew that for him and the people to experience God’s blessing, he had to experience Him and have His leading. He also knew he would need a meeting location to eliminate as many distractions as possible. Thus he went outside the camp to meet with the LORD. We, too, need to have a place where we meet with God to eliminate as many distractions as possible—equipped with our Bible, pen, and notebook, we ought to come with phones off and other hindrances removed so that we can hear from God.

Keeping an appointment with God in such a manner will also require effort. The text describes a tent Moses would carry, set up, and tear down whenever the people moved. While he didn’t have to set up and tear down every day, at the very least, he had to take the trip through the camp and then to the tent of meeting some distance from the encampment. Whatever the sacrifice required, what a reward Moses could enjoy by having a sacred space to meet with God. He could worship in God’s presence, while the others had to worship from afar in front of their tent. God spoke to Moses face to face as a friend speaks to a friend, again a description of the LORD communing with His people that has been absent since the fall in Genesis 3.

To have a sacred space to grow in our relationship with Christ, we will need to have the same attitude as Paul, demonstrated by Moses, to count everything else in life as garbage compared to the value of knowing Jesus our Lord, causing us to prioritize our schedules so that we can know Him more and more (Philippians 3:7-11).

Step 2: Request God to reveal more of Himself to you.

As unique as Moses’ relationship with God was, Moses still wanted more of God! To experience more of Him, to know Him more fully! One day Moses expressed his concerns that God Himself wasn’t going to go with the people, but instead, God was going to send His angel ahead of them because they were stubborn and rebellious. In Exodus 33:14, the LORD assures Moses that He will go with him, granting his request from verses 12-13. Moses, then desiring assurance of God’s presence, requested that He travel with them, to which the LORD graciously assured Moses that He would go with them and not forsake His people and Moses. Moses then makes a bold request of God!

Exodus 33:18

Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.”

Moses asked Yahweh to show him His glory! Moses’ request is for God to reveal more of the sum of who He is to him. In other words, Moses says, “I have Your law, I have Your instructions for worship, I have the guarantee that You are coming with us, I have a relationship with You, but… I want more of You; I want to know You more! Show me your glory!” When we meet with the LORD in our sacred place, this should be our prayer and desire every time; to encounter our Heavenly Father and, through these encounters, have Himself reveal more of Himself to us so that we can know Him more and more (Psalm 63:1; Jeremiah 29:13-14)!

Step 3: Respond to God’s self-revelation with worship.

After God placed Moses in a rock crevice on Mount Sinai and passed by Moses, allowing him to see His glory from behind. The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out,

Exodus 34:6-7

The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out,

“Yahweh! The Lord!

    The God of compassion and mercy!

I am slow to anger

    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.

7 I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.

    I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.

But I do not excuse the guilty.

    I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;

the entire family is affected—

    even children in the third and fourth generations.”

Moses’ response to seeing as much of God’s glory as is humanly possible was to throw himself down on the ground and worship.

Exodus 34:8

Moses immediately threw himself to the ground and worshiped.

When God reveals more of Himself to us through His Word, answered prayer, or His Spirit, we should also respond in worship. I’d argue it’s our only proper response (Isaiah 6:1-8; Luke 5:8). I always try to conclude my time with God by allowing what He has shown me about Himself from my time in His Word to shape a prayer of worship, thanksgiving, and asking for the ability to live according to His revealed character.

Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3.

If we follow Moses’ example and implement these guidelines in our walk with Jesus, we will experience God’s presence while we await the day that God will once again fully dwell with His people unhindered!

God will again dwell with His creation and people without any hindrances. 

Revelation 21:1-4

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

I look forward to the day when the rest of God’s people and I fully enjoy His presence! The believer’s reward is God with heaven thrown in! This future reality is possible because God the Son descended in so many ways to our lowly planet.

John 1:14

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

The phrase translated as “made his home among us” in other versions is translated as “dwelt among us” or “tabernacled among us.” The second person of the Trinity pitched his tent, so to speak, or took up temporary residence by becoming human and living in ancient Palestine to reveal God to us and make the way to God possible.

John 1:18

No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

John 1:10-12

He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

We are adopted into God’s family when we believe in Jesus Christ, the Word that became human. Through Jesus’ person and His Work, we can enjoy a right relationship with God and His presence in our lives by grace through faith as we look forward to the day in the new heavens and earth where God will dwell with all His people! Until that day is realized, may we follow Moses’ example and pursue God, longing for His presence in our lives to be so great that we are so overwhelmed with His goodness that we can’t help but worship in humble awe!

Want to experience God’s presence in your life now and for eternity? If so, you must have a relationship with Jesus. Click on the picture below to see how you can receive Jesus today!


Week 8 – The Ten Commandments (Part 1)

Exodus 20:1-21

I was very blessed to grow up with great Bible teachers as a child. One of my all-time favorite teacher’s name is Mike. I guess I was in his Sunday school class as a 4th or 5th grader though I am not sure. Mike was very creative, among other things, and I remember that each week, as we traveled through the major stories of the Bible, he would bring into the class an object pertaining to the week’s lesson that he would hang on the room’s wall after teaching each week. I can remember a few. He had brought in a rib of an animal when he taught us about God creating Eve from one of Adam’s ribs, and I believe he also had a bag of dirt for that same lesson since God created Adam from the dust of the ground. For Genesis 3, Mike brought in a fake apple to represent the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Later on, when I started teaching children and students, I reached out to him and asked if I could borrow his cat-of-nine-tails and crown of thorns, among other items, to teach my group at the time about the passion of Christ. Along with these object lessons that made a lasting impression upon me as a young believer and as a teacher of God’s Word was the Sunday morning that Mike brought in two large, gray, jagged, flat stones with the ten commandments written in black sharpie on their surfaces.

In this small wood-paneled room, I remember my first encounter – that I can recall – with the ten commandments. I can’t recall all the details of the one or many lessons surrounding the ten commandments twenty-eight years later, but I know without a doubt God used them to lay a foundation for how I would relate to Him and others as a young boy moving forward. Over two decades later, even in preparation for writing this week’s post, I am still discovering more and more about these instructions that God gave the people of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai. However, anything new that I might have learned or will discover in the future doesn’t eclipse the primary reason the LORD gave these words to Israel almost 3,500 years ago. Yahweh gave the Decalogue (a fancy name for the ten commandments meaning a set of rules with binding authority) to the newly freed slave nation to show how they were to relate to Him and others with Him as their God.

The LORD has delivered Israel from Egypt through His power displayed in each of the ten plagues that proved Himself as the one true God against the gods of Egypt. He had remained faithful to the promises He made to Abraham concerning his descendants. At the end of the four-hundred-year period, God disciplined the nation that had enslaved Abraham’s descendants and delivered them. Before God makes good on the promise of land, He brings the Israelites to the base of Mount Sinai. Two months after their exodus from Egypt, God reveals Himself to them further and provides guidance on how to relate to Him as their covenant God and to one another as people of the covenant nation.

Exodus 19:3-6

Then Moses climbed the mountain to appear before God. The Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “Give these instructions to the family of Jacob; announce it to the descendants of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”

God reveals Himself as their God (v 4). He is keeping His unconditional end of the covenant that He made with Abraham in Genesis. However, if the people of Israel want to enjoy the blessings that come with being part of Yahweh’s covenant community they must obey Him. Biblically, obedience is proof of our trusting God (Isaiah 26:8) and our love for Him (John 14:15; 1 John 5:2-3). Here we see the terms of the covenant spelled out, obedience brings blessing and disobedience brings cursing. If they will obey the terms of the treaty that are spelled out in Exodus 20 and following, they will be a people seperated to Him and for Him and thus able to receive His continued blessing as His special treasure. The first half of Exodus (Chapters 1-19) tells us of Israel’s miraclous rescue from slavery in Egypt and their arrival to Mount Sinai fulfilling God’s promise to Moses (Exodus 3:12). The second half of the book introduces the formal agreement between God and His people known as the Sinai Covenant (Chapters 20 – 40). This all provides us the context of Exodus 20:1-17.

The ten commandments, as they are traditionally called in 20:1-17 are a part of the larger covenant God makes with Israel. While the covenant guidelines begin in 20:1, they do not conclude until Leviticus 27:34. The following verses found in our focus passage for the week containing the covenant stipulations are patterned after “suzerainty treaties.” Suzerainty treaties are where a conqueror made a treaty with the conquered, which he “benefited” them with his care and protection as long as they abided by the expectations of the treaty. 20:1 tells us that God communicated to the people of Israel Himself, audibly, and not through Moses, as He further revealed Himself to them and entered into a covenant with them as a nation. Exodus 20:2 is the preamble portion of the treaty. The preamble identifies the giver (the Lord your God) and the recipients (the ones rescued from Egypt) of the covenant.

Exodus 20:1-2

Then God gave the people all these instructions:

“I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.

Nothing in chapter 20 is described as a “commandment,” “law,” or the like. This translation detail might shock you as it did me upon learning that the Hebrew term translated as “instructions” in the NLT is “words.” These are the words that God gave to the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 5:6-21). We can be sure that even though these words recorded for us in Exodus 20 and delivered to that generation at the foot of Mount Sinai are not referred to as commands, God still expected His people to obey them. By following His words, they would act in ways that were basic to His covenant. These Ten Words carry more significance than routine laws. These expectations, traditionally and conveniently known as the ten commandments, are more like a national constitution than the contents of a section of codified law. These were to the Israelites like the Constitution of the United States is to us today. The following hundreds of laws in Exodus and Leviticus (Exodus 21:1) show how these covenant stipulations are to be regulated in daily life, much like individual laws today deal with particulars flowing from our Constitutional guidelines. Let’s now look at these words of Yawheh to His covenant people.

Exodus 20:3

“You must not have any other god but me.

After demonstrating His greatness over the gods of Egypt and rescuing the Israelites to be a people for Himself, He males it known to them that He will not compete with anyone or anything for their devotion. It was He that delivered them so they should have no other gods except Him. He was not to be one of many gods nor was He to simply be at the top of a deific hierarchy of beings. Relational purity was what He called His people to as they left the polytheistic religion of Egypt and as they were about to encounter the gods of the Canannites. He calls us to this same relational purity with Himself today. This relational purity is the product of pure theology for these generations past and for us today and are summed up beautifully by Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4.

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.

Exodus 20:4-6

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.

In these verses, God forbids His people from making the resemblance of anything out of anything to be used as an object of worship. In Isaiah 44:6-20, the LORD exposes the foolishness of worshipping idols for He alone is God. He is a jealous God who will not share His glory with another (Joshua 24:19; Isaiah 42:8, 48:11). The LORD is also jealous over His people, which is a good thing. God’s jealousy is a good thing because it is always a God thing. As the only God who has rescued us from our sin, brought us into covenant relationship with Him through Jesus, and who will do life with us until He takes us to be with Him, He alone is worthy of our worship (20:1).

Quickly, the latter part of verses five and six does not mean that God will punish an innocent generation for the sins of the preceding generation (Deuteronomy 24:16) but will punish the present generation if they do the same sins they learned from their parents. It’s also important to remember that even if one generation tries to break a cycle from a previous generation and follow the LORD, they might still suffer or experience difficult circumstances as a natural result of their parents’ sins. While God promises not to let rebellious generations go unpunished, He also promises not to withhold His love from those who love Him supremely.

Exodus 20:7

You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.

While this word does tell us not to use God’s name distastefully, it encompasses more than simply not using God’s name as a cuss word or flippantly. In ancient times a person’s name was a reflection of a person’s character. God’s name includes all of who He is, a sum of His attributes. God is love, merciful, gracious, true, faithful, holy, righteous, and jealous, among other things. We take His name in vain when we misrepresent Him to others in our speech or actions to others. We are to reflect His name, Him, to those around us in such a way that it brings honor to His person, character, and reputation. May we pray that God would help us imitate Him in everything we do as His dear children (Ephesians 5:1).

Exodus 20:8-11

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.

Throughout this commandment is a emphasis on “stopping” and “keeping it holy.” Clearly, the purpose of the Sabbath cannot be limited either to a break from work once a week or to the setting aside of one day a week to focus on godliness. Rather both are to be done on every Sabbath.

Like many other ancient covenants had some sort of sign to remind the people of the covenant lest they forget about it. The Sabbath functioned as a sign for the Mosaic or Sinai covenant. The Sabbath provided a regular reminder weekly for everyone as they stopped working and devoted themselves to worship and by doing so demonstrated their keeping of the covenant.

The word “sabbath” comes from a common Hebrew word meaning “stopping, stoppage, or cessation.” The sabbath is the day in which one stops their regular work and breaks from their daily routine for the sake of focusing on God more so than at other times during the week. The Jews observed the weekly Sabbath on Saturdays. After Jesus resurrected on a Sunday morning, the Church designated Sunday as the weekly Sabbath as a way to remind believers of this New Covenant we enjoy because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross and resurrection.

I often find myself wanting Chic-fil-a on Sundays after church more than any other time during the week, and transparently, because of my selfishness, I get a little annoyed that they aren’t open so that I can satisfy my craving. Before you judge, the Spirit quickly convicts me of my selfishness. He then graciously leads me to thank the Lord that Chic-fil-a honors the Lord by keeping the Sabbath holy and allowing their employees to worship Christ if they so desire on Sundays. This same idea was to be observed by the original hearers as well in verse ten. Those who had servants or employees were to allow them time off on the Sabbath to worship and seek the LORD at a heightened level than their usual routine would have allowed them.

Yet, just like today, some tasks needed to be accomplished despite it being the weekly Sabbath. The animals needed to be fed, crises addressed, and priests would still need to offer sacrifices. Within our culture today, you may find yourself working on Sundays not necessarily because you want but out of necessity. If you work on Sundays, select a day you have off and use that as a day to break away from your workday routines to rest and seek the LORD. Some of our larger churches today provide worship gatherings and small groups more than just on Sunday mornings. If you’re fortunate to have one near you, gather with other believers on your weekly Sabbath to grow in your faith and worship. The idea for the Israelites at the foot of Sinai and us today is to do everything possible to stop everything possible to provide a day for all who desire to receive a day of rest for spiritual emphasis, including growth and service. God never meant for us to have one lazy day a week; instead, it is to have one day a week where we focus on doing His will – to worship, learn, study, serve, care, and strengthen our spirits.

When we set aside a day per week to focus on the LORD and our spiritual nourishment, we are being obedient to God’s commands. When we sabbath, we imitate our Heavenly Father (Genesis 2:1-4) and trust Him to provide for seven days’ worth of needs with only six days of our attention on meeting those seven days’ worth of necessities.

We stop this week here at the end of the fourth word or commandment for the sake of our attention spans. Commandment four is a natural place to break for this biblical story of the ten commandments because the first four words show how we lovingly relate to God, and the last six tell us how we love others like ourselves. When the lawyer asked Jesus what the most important commandment was, He replied with the following words from Mark 12:29-30:

“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’

When Jesus tells us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, He is saying that we are to love God above all else. When we love God supremely, He is the center of our lives, and nothing competes for our affection towards Him. When our love for Him is second to no one or no thing, we desire to bring honor to His name in all that we do, and we will keep the Sabbath as we act upon our desire to be with God’s people on the Lord’s day as we seek rest and spiritual nourishment.

1 John 5:3 says that if we love God, we will keep His commands and that His commands are not a burden for us to keep. Like Paul in Romans 7, I desire to do what is right because I love God. Yet, I still fail to love God supremely, as evidenced each time I choose to love myself instead of God by sinning and, therefore, not keeping God’s commands. My inability to love God faithfully and supremely lets me know that I am a sinner in need of rescuing (Galatians 3:24). I am incredibly grateful that Jesus kept all of God’s law perfectly (1 John 3:5). Through his flawless obedience to the Father’s will and His death in my place I am justified before God because of my faith in Jesus. God credits Jesus’ perfect obedience or righteousness to us, and because of the gracious act, we stand before God just as if we have never sinned or just as if we have always obeyed. With this new legal standing before God, we stand ready to receive all the blessings that come from being part of His covenant people!

Want to know more about how you can stand before God guiltless despite being guilty of breaking His law? Click the picture below!

As we look at the remaining commandments next week, we will see how we can practically love others like ourselves (Mark 12:31); I hope you will join me once again as we study God’s Word.


Week 7: Moses and the Plagues

Exodus 1-14

My wife and I started watching the series Blacklist several months ago. It’s a great show full of breathless moments and suspenseful plot turns. We have taken a long break from watching it, falling further behind with the new season becoming available on Netflix since our leave watching the drama. We took the break to watch a sitcom that is not so serious and thus easier to turn our minds and emotions off, to allow us to fall asleep quicker and easier. Before our Blacklist sabbatical, an episode began with Reddington waking up in the back of a jeep driven by boy soldiers. To make his coming back to consciousness even more troubling, Reddington hears gunfire as the boys exchange fire with the soldiers chasing them in a humvee. The young soldiers eventually exchange their automatics for a single rocket launcher bringing an end to the chase and their chasers.

The young soldiers escort a handcuffed Reddington to a dictator in a recliner on a sandy, jungle-surrounded beach in Cameroon. Yabaari is the dictator that Reddington is sat before and questioned by. In this brief but tense conversation, Raymond quickly reveals to Yabaari that he didn’t find him; instead, he found him. In exchange for 3 million dollars, Reddington hopes this jungle dictator will provide him with the name of another person Berlin has hired to hunt him. Yabaari denies knowing anything about a hired mercenary until after the second missile strikes near his vicinity because of Raymond’s planning. After the second explosion, this now desperate dictator begins to do his best to recall the name of the man Berlin has contracted to eliminate Reddington. From the stumbling words of Yabaari, Reddington is able to conclude that he needs to focus his attention on Lord Baltimore and neutralize this threat to himself. The scene fades with Raymond cooly and dramatically setting the cash ablaze to safely make his escape from his captors.

When we first begin reading the opening chapter of Exodus, it may seem as if God’s people are awakening to a scary and bleak situation like Reddington, as a new Pharoah arises to power. Unaware of Joseph and his actions, the Pharoah is afraid of the Israelites because they are great in number. He and the nation of Egypt enslaved the descendants of Abraham. His fear of the Hebrew’s size eventually leads to the Pharoah ordering the midwives to kill all newborn boys upon delivery. While the current situation of the Hebrews experiencing slavery in Egypt might have caused many to wonder if God had forgotten the covenant promise He had made to their ancestor Abraham, those who remembered the details of God’s promise realized that while Pharoah and the Egyptians believed they were enslaving the Hebrews for their own benefit, it was God who allowed His people to be enslaved so that He might indeed keep His word spoken to Abraham.

Genesis 15:13-14

Then the Lord said to Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. 14 But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth.

Anyone who remembered these details of God’s revealed plan to Abraham would have been able to have their strength renewed as they patiently waited on the LORD to act according to His timeline, knowing that He was faithfully working out His plans. We, too, can be spiritually and physically recharged if we wait patiently on the LORD to work out His plans in our lives and all of redemptive history, even if our current circumstances are less than pleasant. As the end of four hundred years draws nearer, God delivers a baby boy who He will use to deliver His people from their slavery in Egypt.

Exodus two tells us that this baby is named Moses. After he is weaned, he grows up in the household of Pharoah. Once a man, Moses went out to visit his people. During this expedition, Moses sees an Egyptian taskmaster beating a fellow Hebrew. Enraged, Moses rushes to the defense of the enslaved person and kills the taskmaster. The next day, when he tries to mediate between fellow Hebrews at odds with one another, one sarcastically questions his authority and asks if will murder him as he did the Egyptian the day before. Moses knew that his killing of the taskmaster was no secret. Pharoah soon found out about Moses’ deed and tried to have him killed. Moses escaped and fled to Midian.

About forty years later, Moses is watching his father-in-law’s sheep when he sees a bush on fire but not being consumed. Moses goes to investigate the strange sight and encounters the living God.

Exodus 3:5-6

When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

“Here I am!” Moses replied.

“Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father —the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.

God then lets Moses know that He is not unaware of His people’s suffering and that He will rescue them from Egypt. He will soon judge the nation of Egypt for the oppression of His people. God informs Moses that He is sending him to lead His people out of Egypt. Moses protests God’s newly revealed plans for his life as he asks for a sign of credibility to give his fellow Hebrews when he arrives and tells them that the God of their ancestors has sent him to them. Specifically, Moses asks what name he should say to them when they ask him for the name of their ancestor’s God who sent him. God graciously reveals His name to Moses in Exodus 3:13-15.

God replied to Moses, “I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.

This is my eternal name,
    my name to remember for all generations.

God says His name is, “I am who I am.” The English transliteration for “I am who I am” is YHWH. YHWH is commonly translated as LORD or Jehovah in our English Bibles. At its basic level, YHWH carries the idea that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the self-existent God, meaning “I am the One who is.” While these verses have inspired countless volumes of commentary, all Bible commentators agree that God’s name carries the idea that He exists independently of anyone or anything. Scholars also agree that God’s name declares His absolute uniqueness. Scripture claims that no one is like the God of Israel (Exodus 15:11; 1 Samuel 2:2; Isaiah 44:6-7). Finally, since God is self-existent, time, circumstances, or experiences do not change who He is. God is immutable. The doctrine of immutability means that God does not change. God is, has been, and forever will be loving, gracious, merciful, fair, righteous, holy, and faithful. God’s immutability gives us the surety of His faithfulness in keeping His promises to Abraham and us today through His Word (Exodus 6:6-8)!

It is difficult to keep this post to a readable length because so many good things are in these chapters, but I’ll keep trying as we fast forward in the narrative. Moses and his brother Aaron have arrived in Egypt and have declared God’s desire for Pharoah to let His people go. Pharoah responds by telling Moses and Aaron that he doesn’t know who YHWH is, so why would he even entertain listening to Him (Exodus 5:2). Pharoah’s arrogance against and ignorance of his Creator God, YHWH, brings me to Exodus 7:3-5 where God declares,

But I will make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn so I can multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. Even then Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you. So I will bring down my fist on Egypt. Then I will rescue my forces—my people, the Israelites—from the land of Egypt with great acts of judgment. When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.

God will not only keep His promise to Abraham to judge the nation that oppressed his descendants, but through His judgment, He will reveal Himself to Pharoah and the Egyptians. The Egyptians were in no shortage of gods and goddesses, yet they did not know the LORD. To reveal Himself as God alone to the Egyptians, each of the ten plagues used by God to judge Egypt was an attack on one of their deities. God displayed His superiority and the worthlessness of Egyptians’ pantheon of gods with each plague He sent.

After displaying His power and authenticity as the only divine being through the plagues, Pharoah sends for Moses and Aaron at night and tells them and the Israelites to get out of Egypt! That same night, 600,000 men plus women, children, and livestock set out from Egypt – but not empty-handed.

Exodus 12:36

The Lord caused the Egyptians to look favorably on the Israelites, and they gave the Israelites whatever they asked for. So they stripped the Egyptians of their wealth!

This verse is anything but an afterthought! This verse is the Holy Spirit intentionally pointing out through Moses that God kept all His promises to Abraham concerning his descendants hundreds of years earlier! God told Abraham that his people would leave with great wealth at the end of their captivity. God is omnipotent; not even the most powerful nation in the world at the time of the exodus could keep Him from keeping His covenant promises to Abraham, and nothing is powerful enough to keep God from keeping His covenant promises with us (John 10:10; Romans 8:38-39)!

As the Israelites leave Egypt, Yahweh still isn’t finished displaying His glory to either Israel or Egypt. God leads Moses and the Israelites to a seemingly dead end and hardens Pharoah’s heart so that he will rouse his army and give chase. God has set up the final scene where His judgment of Egypt will occur. God instructs Moses to raise his staff and separate the waters of the Red Sea. The people of Israel crossed to the other side on dry land with walls of water on each side. Once safely on the other side, the LORD hardened the hearts of the Egyptian army, and they gave chase after the released Hebrews on the same path which they had safely traveled. However, the LORD had other plans as He twisted the chariot wheels of the Egyptians and caused the waters to rush over the army as Moses raised his hand back over the sea. These rushing waters drowned all of Pharaoh’s army that had pursued them into the sea, leaving no survivors. After pointing out the totality of God’s defeat over Pharaoh, his army, and the Egyptian pantheon, Moses points out the totality of God’s faithfulness to all of Abraham’s descendants and the people’s response to the LORD because of His power displayed through both circumstances.

Exodus 14:29-31

But the people of Israel had walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, as the water stood up like a wall on both sides. 30 That is how the Lord rescued Israel from the hand of the Egyptians that day. And the Israelites saw the bodies of the Egyptians washed up on the seashore. 31 When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

God continues to carry out His plan to rescue sinful rebels as first proclaimed in Genesis 3:15. He is furthering His strategy of redemption by keeping His promises to Abraham. He has judged Egypt and freed the Israelites and has already made progress in making them a great nation with 600,000 men plus women and children. Now He must continue to reveal Himself to them, provide guidelines on how to relate to Him and each other, and give them the land designated for this nation that will be a blessing to all the families of the earth.

Several years ago, when my kids and I finished playing Monopoly for the first time, at least one of them wanted to keep the Monopoly money to go shopping. I had to explain that while the paper bills had value while playing the game, they had no purchasing power in the real world. This reality went against my child’s wishful preconceived notion that they could buy toys with Monopoly money because they could buy properties around the gameboard. What they thought was valuable was utterly worthless.

When we look at Moses and the ten plagues as God revealing Himself to the Egyptians by showcasing His power over their gods, He shows them that the gods they worship are as useless as Monopoly money at our local Target. The LORD uses the plagues to reveal to us that He alone is worthy of our worship; this is the message He powerfully taught the Egyptians through these plagues. YHWH is alone worthy of worship because He is the only God with the power to redeem a people for Himself and safely guide them home (Exodus 15:11-13).

Exodus 15 is a song of deliverance that Moses and the people sang to the LORD after His mighty rescue of Israel through the Red Sea. However, two months after leaving the land of Egypt, the Israelites resorted to the very thing God demonstrated as useless, idols (Exodus 32 and 33). We would be wise not to follow their example, yet we are no different than they were, so we must humbly ask God to help us not to give in to this same temptation. I invite you to read and think about Psalm 24:1-6 and then pray those verses back to God. Ask God to reveal any idols in your life, give you the desire and strength to rid your life of those idols, and help keep you keep your life pure of idols.


Week 6 – Joseph

Scripture: Genesis 21-36

God made a sovereign promise to Abraham in Genesis 12. God promised to make Abraham into a great nation and that this nation would arise from his son. Genesis 21-36 tells the story of a God who is faithful to keep His promises! Isaac arrives on the stage of history 25 years after God makes His promise to Abraham. Years pass, and Isaac becomes old enough to get married. Isaac marries Rebekah. Rebekah gives birth to two twins, Esau and Jacob. After describing instances that occur in this dysfunctional family, God’s story of rescue hones in on Jacob.

Jacob eventually marries two women, Leah and Rachael. The story behind Jacob’s arrival to a polygamous marriage is equally as interesting as the chapters explaining how Jacob became the father of twelve sons. After Jacob reconciles with his brother Esau, God tells Jacob to return to Bethel and settle. Once at Bethel, God appeared to Jacob again, renewed the Abrahamic covenant with him, and changed his name from Jacob to Israel (Genesis 35:9-12). After God gives Jacob a new name, the Bible’s storyline takes another turn and now focuses on Joseph, the next to youngest of Israel’s twelve sons.

Joseph’s story unfolds in Genesis 37-50. Joseph’s story is too large to write in detail here, but the central theme of these chapters is that God is faithful! These chapters teach us that God will do what He says He will do. We can be sure of this statement because God is omnipotent. Omnipotent means that God is all-powerful or sovereign over everything, so nothing can prevent Him from doing what He has set in His heart to accomplish. The events of Joseph’s life show us that God will see His plans through despite human sin. Joseph shows us an example to emulate when life goes every way but right, even though we are doing our best to live for our Lord.

I love that the Bible provides examples for us to follow and avoid. I find this fact even more comforting when I see things to copy and things to stay away from in the same person’s life. For example, Israel, then Jacob, made an effort to reconcile his relationship with Esau, whom he had deceived, thus challenging us to humbly go to others that we have wronged in repentance with hopes of restoring the fractured relationship. But here, as the Genesis narrative focuses on Joseph, we see Israel favoring Joseph more than his other sons.

As believers and parents, we ought to avoid this habit of Israel (Ephesians 6:4; James 2:1). Showing favoritism does not reflect the worth of all people stemming from being image bearers of their Creator. Having favorites or treating some better than others breeds resentment among family members and church members. Finally, we should refrain from displaying favoritism because it does not accurately represent God to others (Romans 2:11). Despite the dangers of playing favorites, Israel adds fuel to the already burning fire of jealousy and resentment that Joseph’s brothers had toward him by giving him a coat of many colors as a gift.

This lavish gift for Joseph was the tipping point for Joseph’s brothers because they were willing to kill him when the opportunity presented itself. If Reuben hadn’t been present, Joseph’s other brothers would have wasted no time in murdering him. Yet, despite Rueben’s good intentions, the other brothers sold Joseph to Ishmaelite traders while he was away! After being sold into slavery, Joseph arrives in Egypt (Genesis 15:13) and becomes a servant of Potiphar. Even amid the brothers’ sin, God is still sovereign and working out all His promises for unknown to all at this point in history, Egypt would be the nation that enslaved Abraham’s descendants for 400 years. By placing Joseph in Egypt, God was setting the stage for this part of His promise to transpire. Our Heavenly Father often protects us from harm and the consequences of others’ sins. However, there are times that He will instead work in injustices and harm that He chooses not to keep us from experiencing. Yet, even in the midst of suffering and sin, God can still bring blessing, and we see Him do this in Joseph’s life!

Genesis 39:2-6

The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. Potiphar noticed this and realized that the Lord was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did. This pleased Potiphar, so he soon made Joseph his personal attendant. He put him in charge of his entire household and everything he owned. From the day Joseph was put in charge of his master’s household and property, the Lord began to bless Potiphar’s household for Joseph’s sake. All his household affairs ran smoothly, and his crops and livestock flourished. So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn’t worry about a thing—except what kind of food to eat!

Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man,

Things turned for the better once he settled in Potiphar’s household. Because the Lord was with Joseph, he succeeded in all he did and was promoted by Potiphar to look over everything that was his. Joseph is an example for God’s people in our relationship with our employers. Joseph’s respectful attitude towards Potiphar as his employer and effort towards his tasks should be ours towards our employers and superiors in the workplace (Colossians 3:23-24). However, this is not the only thing we can learn from Joseph’s time in Potiphar’s household because Moses tells us that he caught the eye of Potiphar’s wife. Potiphar’s wife tried to entice Joseph to sleep with her several times until she accused him of trying to rape her after another failed attempt at seducing Joseph. Joseph models both the reason we are to pursue sexual purity, a love of God and our neighbor (Genesis 38:8-9), and the way we are to respond to sexual temptation – flee – removing ourselves from the source of the temptation (38:10-12; Proverbs 6:27-29)!

Potiphar believes his wife’s accusations against Joseph, and Joseph suffers for doing the right thing by being imprisoned. I often try to imagine what it would be like to be people in the Bible when reading about the things they experienced for their faith and obedience to God and His commands. The older I get, the more I cringe at some of the sufferings of the righteous, like Joseph experienced despite his best efforts in living to honor God in his daily life. I wonder if Joseph had one of those candid moments with God where he asked God questions, awakened from his less-than-pleasant circumstances because of experiencing another injustice because of another’s sin. Maybe Joseph asked God, “Isn’t it enough that I’ve been separated from my family?” Perhaps Joeseph asked if this was the reward he got for maintaining his sexual purity. We are not privy to know if he asked God questions like these or if he trusted that God would again bless him despite his unjust suffering. Still, we know that God once again proves faithful to His promises to Abraham’s descendants and personally blesses Joseph in prison to make good on His promises.

Genesis 39:21-23

But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. 22 Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. 23 The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.

Once again, we see God being faithful and sovereign in helping Joseph succeed in all that he did, and as a result, Joseph received a promotion. While he oversaw the prison’s logistics, he met the Pharoah’s baker and cupbearer, who had also been sentenced to some time in prison. One morning he saw that both of them were upset and asked what was bothering them. The men told Joseph they both had dreams the night before, but neither understood what they meant. In Genesis 40:8, Joseph tells them that interpreting dreams was God’s business. Even after all that he had been through, Joseph was still concerned with God receiving glory in all things. With God’s help, Joseph interpreted their dreams for them. Both dreams’ interpretations came to pass, and the cupbearer was reinstated to his position (though the baker’s outcome wasn’t desirable, it still happened). Joseph asked the cupbearer to remember him since he had helped him by interpreting his dream in hopes that he would be released from prison because of his request to Pharoah. After being reinstated to his position, we discover that the cupbearer forgets about Joseph (40:23).

The cupbearer forgets about Joseph until two years later, when the most powerful man in Egypt, the Pharaoh himself, has two dreams that shake him to his core. After Egypt’s wise men were left dumbfounded by Pharoah’s dreams, the cupbearer remembers Joseph and mentions him and his ability to interpret dreams to Pharoah. Joseph is sent for and brought before Pharoah and asked to tell Pharoah what his dreams meant. Even after being forgotten by the cupbearer and serving two more years in prison, Genesis 41:16 still shows Joseph’s faith in God and desire to point others to Him.

“It is beyond my power to do this,” Joseph replied. “But God can tell you what it means and set you at ease.”

Joseph explains that God has given Pharoah foresight to what will soon occur. There will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph then advised Pharoah to task a wise man to lead the nation in preparation for the years of scarcity. Pharoah and his officials are pleased with Joseph’s advice. Once again, we see God’s hand of sovereignty and blessing on Joseph’s life as He continues to prepare a way to provide for Abraham’s descendants and preserve their lives during the extended famine by elevating Joseph to national leadership.

Genesis 41:37-40

Joseph’s suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked his officials, “Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are. 40 You will be in charge of my court, and all my people will take orders from you. Only I, sitting on my throne, will have a rank higher than yours.”

God provides for and blesses Joseph again! God has blessed Joseph and carried on His work despite the messiness of human sin and injustice. After seven years of plenty, the seven years of famine began. As the famine progressed, Joseph’s brothers back in Canaan needed to make a trip to Egypt to buy grain so that they and their families could survive. Since Joseph was over the distribution of food, it was he that they would see to purchase the needed supplies. Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. After a series of events testing his brothers, Joseph eventually revealed his identity to them during their second trip to Egypt for food.

As Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, he didn’t neglect to point out their responsibility and sinfulness for selling him into slavery. He told them that they sold him into slavery, and they sent him to Egypt. At the same time, pointing out his brothers’ evil intentions, he pointed to God’s sovereignty over everything, informing them that God used their wicked intentions to position him to preserve their lives and families (Genesis 45:1-8). Joseph then sent his brothers back for his father and their families. Once Joseph’s relatives arrived in Egypt, they settled in the land of Goshen. Since time couldn’t help but march on, Israel (Jacob) nears the end of his earthly life. Before Israel passes, he speaks blessings and cursings over his sons. Genesis 49:23-24 preserves the blessing that Israel said over Joseph.

Archers attacked him savagely;
    they shot at him and harassed him.
24 But his bow remained taut,
    and his arms were strengthened
by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob,
    by the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.

In Israel’s blessing over Joseph, he recognizes that Joseph is solid in his faith. Despite all the injustices experienced due to others’ evil intentions, Joseph remained firm in his relationship with God without becoming bitter towards God. He worshiped God because of who God was and not dependent upon what God did or did not do for him. Yet, Israel is quick and wise to point out that Joseph cannot take credit for his unwavering faith or for not giving up during his struggles. No, Joseph would be who He was spiritually or professionally if it had not been for the Mighty One of Jacob, the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, strengthening him throughout his entire lifetime. For us to remain faithful to God and not become bitter towards God, we, like Joseph, must remember that God is omnipotent, faithful, and will work things out for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28-29). While He is working all things out, Joseph challenges us to continually trust God even when we suffer injustices that result from other people’s sins by humbly walking with Him and pointing others to Him. May we wait on the Lord like Joseph and others of old to carry out His plans in patient expectant faith so that we can be strengthened by Him.

If the story of Joseph doesn’t convince you that God can faithfully work out His promises and plans despite people’s evil acts and intentions, let me briefly point you to the cross. What men intended for evil, the crucifixion of Jesus out of jealousy and self-preservation, God used for good! In Acts 4, Peter addresses the Sanhedrin about him and John healing a disabled man the day before. Peter holds no punches as he declares that,

Acts 4:10, 12

…he (the cippled man) was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene,the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead…There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

In humanity’s darkest hour, through their most gruesome act, the crucifixion of their Creator, the Triune God provided the only way for rebellious sinners to experience restoration to the very Creator they crucified. Since God worked out His plans and kept His promises through the cosmic suffering and injustice of Christ’s crucifixion, we can, in confidence, know that He will, like He did for Joseph, do the same for us. Like Joseph and Jesus, we must humbly walk with and trust the Father’s plan and person even when suffering unjustly. If we do, we too, like Joseph can say, because of God’s strengthening during those times that, what was meant to harm us, God used for His glory, our good, and the good of others.

See how Jesus’ suffering is used by God for good by watching the video below!

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Week 5 – Abraham’s Covenant

Scripture: Genesis 11:16 – 15:6

The global flood was God’s judgment on sin. However, the earth’s watery immersion didn’t wash the evil from the human heart. People continued to rebel against their Creator both individually and corporately. Ham sinned by dishonoring his father, Noah, after seeing him passed out drunk naked by delightfully sharing his discovery with his brothers. Instead of dishonoring their father with their brother, Shem and Japheth honored their father by covering up his nakedness while not viewing his exposed body (Genesis 9:20-29). As we see with Ham, people continued to be rebellious sinners through their actions. Once we arrive at Genesis 11, we see the historical account of the Tower of Babel, which shows a unified humanity defiant to its Creator.

After the flood, God tells Noah and his sons to multiply, filling all the earth (Genesis 9:1, 7). Yet, Genesis 11:4 shows how as one people (11:6), the human race comes together to build a city with a tall tower (perhaps a safeguard against another global flood?) so that they would not be scattered over the whole earth (Genesis 11:4, 6). Their unified goal was undoubtedly an act of global defiance to their Creator God, who had given the post-deluge mandate to multiply and fill the earth. Once again, early on in the pages of Scripture, we see God have to judge humanity’s sin. His judgment at the Tower of Babel isn’t expulsion from a garden or a worldwide flood, but the introduction to various languages instead of one common language (Genesis 11:7-9) leading to the halting of the tower and the dispersion of people over the face of the earth (See the Table of Nations in Genesis 10).

The themes of God’s holiness and judgment are not the only themes or truths that resurface in these chapters of Genesis. At the end of chapter eleven, we see God introduce the next chapter of His redeeming story through the descendants of Noah’s son Shem when Moses introduces us to one of Terah’s sons, Abram. Before wrapping up chapter eleven, Moses informs us that Abram married Sarai and that she could not conceive. We also learn that Terah left the city of Ur, close to modern-day Kuwait, and traveled to Haran (located in the southeastern part of Turkey). Terah and his family made this move around 2100 B.C.

As we turn our gaze to Abram, better known as Abraham, we see a monumental building block for our understanding of the one biblical narrative. If this were a ten-week series instead of a 52-week study, I would still have included God’s covenant with Abraham in our survey at number two. The Abrahamic Covenant continues God’s redemptive work promised in Genesis 3:15 and helps us understand some end-time events. At this point in the biblical storyline, it shows us the extent of God’s redeeming love and the exact man’s descendants whom God will use to make it all possible. Let’s go to the Scriptures.

Genesis 12:1-4

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.

In these verses, we see God make two promises to Abraham. God promises that Abraham will become a great nation. At this point, God doesn’t tell Abraham specifically that this great nation will come from the descendants of his son. However, Abraham may have understood this as a given, considering his faith demonstrated in chapter fifteen. This promised nation also comes with God’s designated location, though God chooses not to disclose what geographical area He has in mind for the future country to Abraham here. Secondly, God promises Abraham that he will be a blessing to all the families on earth.

These promises that God makes to Abraham are conditional. For Abraham to receive these promises from God, he must meet the conditions related to the promises. There are two promises, and there are only two things Abraham must do to receive what God has promised. First, he must believe that what God said is true. Abraham must trust that God will do what He has said He would do. God calls Abraham to have faith in Him.

Secondly, Abraham must act on his faith. He must take his family and move from his country, relatives, and father’s house. Abraham must leave the familiar for the unfamiliar. On our first wedding anniversary, Stephanie and I decided to take off to the mountains on a Friday evening after work. We were heading to Boone, NC, without prior reservations or planning. We traveled the construction-plagued path our GPS had selected for us in pouring down rain and with worn-out windshield wipers. We arrived in Boone on a gloomy and rainy night, thinking we had an easy task before us, only to discover that we were sadly mistaken. There was a Nascar Race in Bristol that weekend and hotels were booked solid; there was no room at the inn! We were both tired, ill, and hungry as we stopped to fuel Steph’s red Chevy Blazer for the trip back home. As we approached Winston-Salem, we decided to salvage an overnight experience for our anniversary. We chose to stay in Winston-Salem and spend Saturday around that area. I can laugh at it now though I couldn’t laugh that night after walking into the first hotel and discovering that Joyce Myers was in town for a convention resulting in no vacancy statuses across the city. Stunned and with a disappointed, hungry bride, I drove us home, making our first wedding anniversary one neither of us will forget.

After that less-than-fairytale anniversary experience in 2008, we have not taken a trip that either one or both of us have thought through and planned out. I am just talking about vacationing here; every time I get up in my attic, I feel a little sick when I think about actually moving homes one day since my attic resembles a world of Minecraft-looking bricks made of totes that are full of items. But even if my family and I did move, one day, we would know where we would be moving to, where at least one of us would be working, how we would afford the move and the logistics of our relocation. Yet here, God is calling Abraham to follow Him, for him and his wife to gather all their belongings, animals, and servants and leave the familiar to go to a place God would show him. Abraham must trust God for direction, provision, and protection if he leaves Haran. Genesis 12:4 says that Abraham did believe God and acted on his faith in His promises by departing as the Lord instructed.

Genesis 15 revisits God’s initial promises to Abraham in Genesis 12. God reaffirms His covenant promises to Abraham in Genesis 15:1-5.

Some time later, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.”

But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.”

Then the Lord said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!”

In these verses of conversation between Abraham and the Lord, we see a man of faith confused about how God will accomplish these promises made to him earlier. We see Abraham’s faith demonstrated in his addressing God as Sovereign Lord. Abraham knew and believed that God was supreme and all-powerful. If He could create order from chaos out of nothing, surely He could provide a son to leave a physical and covenantal inheritance to as well. God reassures him that Abram will have a son and his son will be his heir, but from that son, Abraham’s descendants would multiply till they were as numerous as the stars in the sky. What was Abraham’s response? Faith or unbelief? Fortunately, we don’t have to guess.

Genesis 15:6

And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.

In Romans, Paul provides commentary surrounding this exercise of Abraham’s faith in the Lord.

Romans 4:20-22

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.

The Old and New Testaments confirm that God counted him as righteous when Abram responded in faith. At the bare minimum, the word “righteous” describes appropriate conduct in a relationship. God had called Abraham into a covenant relationship with Himself in which God required Abraham to trust Him to do what He said He would do. When Abraham demonstrated his faith through obedience, God said, “Yes, Abraham, you’ve got it!” Abraham was made right with God because of His faith, and from being made right with God, he enjoyed the promises of God.

God expected Abraham to have faith. What does He expect of us?

The very same thing. He expects us to have faith.

God desires us to have faith in Him as we live out a covenantal relationship with Him (Matthew 26:26-30). The writer of Hebrews tells us that without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). We cannot be restored to a right relationship with Him without faith in Christ. We can not pleasingly live for Him without faith because without faith in His promises, there is no catalyst for obedience, and disobedience is sinfully displeasing to our Heavenly Father. We must believe in Him and His Word to experience God’s presence, power, and peace in our lives. The promise made to everyone and for everyone who trusts in Jesus will be rescued from God’s judgment on their sin because Christ died and suffered on their behalf to pay the penalty of their sin debt against God. God has always rescued people and counted them as righteous because of their faith in Him. People before the cross looked ahead in faith, and everyone who has lived after the cross looks back in faith to the work of Jesus’ finished on the cross. Paul illustrates this truth in Romans by referring to God’s work in Abraham’s life.

Romans 4:23-25

And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Have you trusted God’s promise of eternal life for all who believe in His Son, Jesus Christ? If not, why not take that step of faith today? I pray that if you haven’t, you’ll receive Jesus today! If you’re ready, click the image below and have your life forever changed!

The prophet Habakkuk found himself living at a time when the Babylonians had their way with the kingdoms of the ancient Near East as they conquered the Assyrian empire. Many believe Habakkuk wrote the book that bears his name right before Jerusalem’s final siege and destruction in 586 B.C. If this is the case, the prophet had seen much devastation and cruelty caused by the Babylonian war machine. He also probably experienced much difficulty and loss due to the invasions. As Habbakuk looked at his life and world, he had trouble understanding what God was doing. He particularly struggled with why God would allow the “much more wicked” Babylonians to destroy a “more righteous people” than they. As Habakkuk interacts with God in his book, the man of God finishes his writing with a declaration of faith!

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
    He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    able to tread upon the heights.

These verses are a challenging declaration of faith the prophet records for us. May we, like Habakkuk, remain faithfully steadfast in the promises and Word of our God even if we are depleted or become void of physical provisions. May we trust in Him even if we don’t understand what He is doing in our lives or the world. When we cement our faith in God, we can joyfully please Him no matter the circumstances near or far because He will strengthen us to do His work as we look forward to the day we will receive everything promised to us by the God of our salvation.

How do we know if we are living by faith in God? James tells us that if our faith is void of good deeds, our faith is dead – it is not genuine. True faith in God leads to obedience to God’s commands which results in the good deeds that prove our faith in God as real (James 2:17-24). Faith in God’s Word enabled Noah to build the ark, Abraham to offer Isaac, Joseph to remain hopeful despite all the hardships, and Paul to persevere in ministry as he considered his present sufferings as nothing compared to his promised future glory.

Examples of people with a life of faith in God are not exclusive to Scripture. Through an online class, I heard about a missionary whose faith in God’s promise of future glory kept her like Paul to continue in ministry despite an insurmountable diagnosis. After discovering she had cancer in 21 of 22 lymph nodes, Gretchen Hill returned to Turkey and shared the gospel with Muslims. Her faith in God was a catalyst for her sacrificial decision. Instead of becoming bitter and leaving the mission field or simply living out her days as comfortably as possible in the States with her family, she proceeded with the missions work God had given her. No doubt, she genuinely believed there was more to life than our time on earth. 

Gretchen’s and men’s and women’s examples in the Bible should be cause for self-reflection and encouragement. Yet, more often than not, we, as followers of Jesus, demonstrate our faith in Him through the ordinary. 

In Straight Talk to Men, James Dobson discusses something called “the straight life.” For a man in a family, he says, this is “pulling your tired frame out of bed, five days a week, 50 weeks out of the year. It is earning a two-week vacation in August, and choosing a trip that will please the children. The straight life is spending your money wisely when you’d rather indulge in a new whatever; it is taking your son bike riding … when you want so badly to watch the baseball game; it is cleaning out the garage on your day off after working 60 hours the prior week. The straight life is coping with head colds and engine tune-ups and crab grass and income-tax forms … it is giving a portion of your income to God’s work when you already wonder how ends will meet. The straight life for the ordinary, garden-variety husband and father is everything I have listed and more … much more.”

I believe “the life of faith” could be a synonym for “the straight life,” as described above. A life of faith is living in obedience to God’s commands demonstrating that we believe what He says about our covenantal relationship, all we have experienced and do experience and will experience. I pray that the Spirit of our Lord will help us experience the surety, peace, strength, and joy that comes from us solidifying our faith in God and His Word, like Abraham.

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Week 4 – Noah and the Flood

Scripture: Genesis 6-9

Honey Agaric mushrooms growing on a tree in autumn forest. Group of wild mushrooms Armillaria.

A fungus spreads through tree roots across 2,200 acres in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest. It is estimated that this honey mushroom, spread throughout the forest, weighs a combined 7,567 to 35,000 tons, making it the largest living organism ever found. Popularly known as the honey mushroom, the Armillaria Ostoyae started from a single microscopic spore. Despite starting invisible to the naked eye, it’s been weaving its black shoestring filaments through the forest for an estimated 2,400 years, killing trees as it grows.

“When you’re on the ground, you don’t notice the pattern. You just see dead trees in clusters,” says Tina Dreisbach, a botanist and mycologist [botanist of fungi] with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station in Corvallis, Oregon.

Researchers found something that looks like white latex paint after digging into the roots of infected trees. These mats of mycelium look like brush-stroked pictures of tree roots themselves, and they draw water and carbohydrates from the tree to provide food for the fungus and, as a result, interfere with the tree’s absorption of nutrients. The shoestring filaments, called rhizomorphs, stretch as much as ten feet into the soil, invading tree roots through a combination of pressure and enzyme action.

Like this larger-than-life mushroom, sin began in a single act of disobedience in the garden but continued to spread, along with its effects throughout the human race. In Genesis 4, Cain murders Abel but even premeditated murder of the innocent isn’t as low as humanity can go; the Bible shows it continuing downward. Lamech, Cain’s great great great grandson, is said to have boasted about two sins, as seen in the second half of Genesis 4. Lamech is unashamed about having two wives (a detour from God’s intent, as seen in Genesis 2:24) and killing a man, though it seems like self-defense. We shouldn’t be surprised that humanity spiraled morally out of control like a helicopter that has lost its tail rotor because once sin entered the world through Adam, people inherited a bent toward sin. Acting towards that sinful bend instead of bending their wills to obey God’s instructions led to the pinnacle of God’s creation collectively spinning out of control as they willingly lost their moral tail rotor. Approximately 1,500 years passed between Adam’s sin and God revealing His plan to judge the world. It is hard to fathom just how far the same creation deemed “very good’ by God at the end of creation week had fallen since Adam and Eve’s initial rebellion in the garden.

Genesis 6:5-7

The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.”

This paragraph teaches us much about sin. For starters, we see that because of Adam’s and Eve’s original act of disobedience, also known as the original sin, their offspring (all humanity) are creatures bent toward sin. God created Adam and Eve as morally-neutral beings, but through Adam’s sin, sin entered into the rest of the world, and as a result, every one of us as their descendants inherited a sin nature. In other words, we bend towards sin and act on this natural leaning (Romans 5:12, 16). Moses tells us that most of the human race had fully and willfully acted upon their sinful desires or bent.

Secondly, we see the complete hopelessness of man if left to our own and without the effects of God’s common grace. Because of original sin, we are empty of spiritual good before God. The term that describes this condition of fallen humanity is total depravity. Total depravity is the belief that Adam’s sin has affected every aspect of who we are. It is the doctrine that every part of our being has been affected by sin. The fall has affected our intellects, emotions and desires, hearts (the center of our desires and decision-making), goals and motives, and even physical bodies. Paul communicates this fact by sharing his struggle against sin in Romans 7:14-25.

Romans 7:18

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.

Paul’s description of himself when writing this letter to the church in Rome is also accurate about you, me, and everyone else, for that matter, as we look at another verse penned by the Holy Spirit through Paul in the same letter.

Romans 3:23

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

These two verses from Romans tell us that we are sinners by nature and by our actions and the description of the people living during Noah’s day provides a stunning picture of the type of world it would be if God left sinners’ rebellion unchecked.

Thought #1: People are sinners by nature and action (Genesis 6:5).

Thought #2: God will judge sin (Genesis 6:6-7).

I’ve tried to process the weight and scope of how great God’s grief was as a result of how far His once good creation and those made in His image had fallen, and I can’t. All I can say is that sin breaks God’s heart (Genesis 6:6). May you and I utter the prayer that, by His grace and Spirit, help us not to grieve His heart, which loves us abundantly. The other side of that statement is that God does care about our holiness (1 Peter 1:16) because He desires us to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1), and He is holy (Leviticus 21:8). This truth leads us to another prayer for us to faithfully pray, Father help me to become more like your Son through the refining of your Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Because God is holy and cannot tolerate sin, there must be some way to judge offenses against Him (Psalm 51:4) and others (Amos 5:10-15). His holiness demands justice for sins that people commit. In Genesis 6:7, the Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25) renders his verdict on His wayward rebellious creation. In judgment, God decrees that He will flood the globe, destroying animal life and people. Yet God isn’t going to wad up His creation entirely and throw it into the trashcan like a frustrated artist, no, because not only is God a righteous and holy judge but a loving, gracious, and merciful redeemer!

Thought #3: God is Redeemer (Genesis 6:8-9, 14, 17-21).

Genesis 6:8-9

But Noah found favor with the Lord. 9 This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.

In stark contrast to a world that went off the deep end in its wickedness, here lived a man who did not grieve the heart of God and even found favor with God as he lived his life in friendship with God. God did not owe Noah any of His gracious favor because of his righteous character and depth of relationship with Him compared to the rest of his contemporaries. God bestowed grace and blessing on Noah because He wanted to do so. God was about to fill Noah in on His plan for judgment on His creation and his plan for redeeming His creation. As mentioned earlier, God cares about our holiness. Noah’s holiness (not sinless perfection) had prepared him for his Master’s good work in this act of redemption history (Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 2 Timothy 2:21). Anyone who truly wants to be used by God must be pursuing holiness as Noah did. To pursue holiness is to behold and seek Christ, for we become what we behold (2 Corinthians 3:18). We must also realize that holiness is not the practice of living in sinless perfection but the practice of living in sin confession as we pursue Christlike replication. If we walk with the Lord, we will, like Noah, be clean and ready to be used by our Lord for every good work.

God’s task for Noah was to build an ark. God gave Noah instructions for constructing the ark, including specs. The ark would provide safety from God’s coming judgment on sin for Noah, his wife, his sons and their wives, and the animal kingdom. After receiving his God-sized task, Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded (Genesis 6:22). Once Noah had everything complete, the LORD told Noah to go into the boat with his family and the designated pairs of each animal (Genesis 7:1-5).

God is redeeming Noah and his family and the animal kingdom through one man’s obedience and a wooden boat. This historical example of Noah and the ark provides powerful connections of God redeeming all people through another man’s obedience, Christ Jesus, and a wooden cross (Philippians 2:5-8).

The Hebrew word translated “Go” in Genesis 7:1 means to “enter in” or “come in.” God invited Noah and his family into the ark for safety and deliverance from His judgment on sin. God graciously invites people into a relationship with Himself through faith in Jesus, His Son. By entering into this new relationship with God through faith in Jesus, we are protected from God’s judgment on our sins because Christ has experienced and satisfied God’s judgment for our sins on the cross.

Romans 10:9-10

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.

2 Corinthians 5:21

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

In Genesis 6:16, we see that the LORD’s blueprint for the ark had only one door on the side of the ark. Noah and his family only had one way into the ark for salvation from the coming flood. There is only one way or door to enter for everyone and anyone to escape God’s judgment on their sin, and Jesus claims to be that door in the Gospel of John.

John 10:9 (ESV)

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

In June of 2021, my family and I took a trip to Kentucky to visit the Creation Museum and to experience the Ark Encounter. As we traveled through the ark replica, we reached its massive wood door. If you look at the picture below, you will see a visible, though a faint, image of the cross on the door. The combination of the cross and the ark’s entrance reminds us that, like Noah and his family escaped God’s flooding judgment by entering the ark through the door by faith, we can experience rescuing from God’s judgment on our sin by entering the door (Jesus) through faith. When we hear God’s invitation to come to Him and respond favorably with repentance and belief, we begin a relationship with Him at that second that lasts for all eternity. Have you entered through the door (Jesus) who offers life abundantly now and forever? If not, why not? He invites you to enter into a relationship with Him. You can click on our picture below in front of the ark’s door to discover how to begin a relationship with Jesus today!

Memory Verse for Week 4

Genesis 6:22

So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.


Week 3 – The Fall

Blog Scripture Focus: Genesis 3:1-5

Podcast Scripture Focus: Genesis 3:1-24

As I write this post, my four children range between the ages of 12 and 3. My youngest regularly provides different challenges for my wife and me to parent through compared to what we experienced with his three older siblings when they were his age or younger. He will tell us a story without blinking an eye, and I swear he has made an alliance with the humorous sticky finger bandits from Home Alone 2. Another difference between our youngest son and his three siblings is that while the oldest ones would play with toys, color, or watch cartoons, he just likes to mess! Whether trying to paint his fingernails with his sisters’ fingernail polish, cutting paper scraps with scissors, or trying to “fix” something with my tools, he is consistently into something resulting in a bath for him or a project for his parents. Another difference between him and his siblings is that the little man loves asking questions, especially at bedtime! Sometimes, and I mean sometimes, his “why” or “what if” questions lead us to conversations about the faith. Still, most of the time, his questions are humorous, ridiculous, or sometimes downright disturbing, like when he asked me what would happen if he cut my head off; y’all pray for us, lol! However, through his questions and the ensuing conversation, his understanding of God, himself, and the world he lives in grows. As we turn our attention to Genesis 3:1, we see our focus of study for week three also begins with a question. The conversation and events that follow this initial question will help us grow in our understanding of our God, ourselves, the world in which we live, and the promise of the best being yet to come!

Satan Questions God’s Word

Genesis 3:1

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

It shouldn’t surprise us that Satan’s first recorded words are lies misrepresenting God and His abundant provision for His creation (Genesis 1:29-30 & 2:15-17). This initial interaction with Satan, inhabiting the serpent, shouldn’t be a surprise because Jesus calls Satan the father of lies in John 8:44. Sometime between God’s declaration of His creation being very good and this world-altering temptation, Satan rebels against the Triune God and is hurled down to the earth.

Once cast down, he wastes no time trying to overthrow the ones God has put in charge of His creation, Adam and Eve. He figures if he can’t usurp God’s authority and be God in heaven, he will try and usurp the God-given authority from His created vice-regents on earth. In verse one, we see him launch his plan by questioning Eve (and Adam, as we will see) about God’s word. God has told Adam that he could eat from any tree in the garden except for the tree of knowledge of good and evil and that if he did, he would surely die (Genesis 1:16-17). Yet, we see Satan question God’s instruction, twisting it, trying to paint Him as a sovereign tyrant.

Eve Misquotes God’s Word

Genesis 3:2-3

“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

Eve responds to the serpent’s question. Unfortunately, she misrepresents God, too, like Satan. But even though she misrepresents God and His words, she doesn’t share the same malicious intent like that as Satan speaking through the snake. Eve was correct in saying that God had given them the freedom to eat from all the trees in the garden except for the tree in the middle of the garden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. However, she was wrong in saying that God had commanded them to not even touch it, and if they did, they would die. Eve had taken God’s decree given to Adam full of liberty, “you may freely eat of any tree except” to a life-limiting restriction, “we can’t even touch it.”

We fenced in our backyard several years ago and have since placed a trampoline, disc swing, large playground, and a concreted driveway with a basketball goal so that our kids can safely enjoy the backyard. Our youngest, though now understanding the fence is for his safety and joy, will still open the gate if left unlocked or try and climb the fence to venture into the front yard where the dangers of speeding cars, stray dogs, and possible strangers abound despite repeated warnings not to and experienced consequences of doing so. The garden of Eden was a backyard of paradise; God had given Adam and Eve EVERYTHING to enjoy fully and to commune with Him unhindered; all they had to do was stay in the metaphorical backyard and not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God’s command not to eat from this tree, like our command to our children not to go out of the backyard, was one of love and parental protection so they could enjoy freedom within the safely defined boundaries their loving God had prepared for them.

Suppose we add to (like Eve) or take away from God’s Word. We can wrongly change our perception of Him by adding or subtracting from His Word. Our blurred perception of Him due to our blundered handling of His Word will cause us to see Him wrongly. We will see Him as an impersonal cosmic dictator or a blundering sitcom comedy father with no authority and deserving no respect. Satan portrays God as a distant celestial dictator by using God (Elohim) instead of LORD God, which denotes God’s covenant love and relationship with His people. These two perceptions will lead us to sin against God as both views distort the truth about God, that He is the all-powerful and sovereign Creator who loves and is relational with His people, thus deserving of our loving obedience.

Satan’s Lies Against the God of the Word

Genesis 3:4-5

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

The father of lies, Satan, calls God a liar. God had said if anyone ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil that, they would surely die (Genesis 2-16-17). Satan told Eve that God was full of hot air, lying through His teeth. Satan was falsely portraying God to His creation. This deception tactic didn’t stop in the garden of Eden; the devil is still trying to trick people into believing his lies about God today. Some lies circulating today are that God doesn’t exist, we all worship the same God, Jesus is just one way to heaven, and that the Bible isn’t the Word of God but is simply a collection of a few certain men’s religious experiences. Satan lies about God’s person.

Secondly, Satan attacks God’s character. Satan tells Adam and Eve that God is holding out on them. Satan wants them to believe God doesn’t desire what is best for them. He causes them to doubt His character by causing them to question God’s plans for them. The serpent told them that God knew if they ate it, they would be like Him, and God selfishly didn’t want that. This lie drove Adam and Eve to have such tunnel vision that they blacked out the created universe around them, designed for them, and abundantly provided for them by God’s design. Everything was for them, everything but this one tree which then became the lustful focus of the couple, particularly Eve, it seems. We need to be aware of the enemy’s attempts to cause us to question God’s character for us as His children. If we end up doubting God’s qualities, we will go down a path of desperation, stress, and worry.

I think that if Adam and Eve had paused long enough and stopped fixating on this one forbidden tree to see everything God had given them to enjoy, they would have been able to see through the serpent’s craftiness. I also believe that if we would take a moment to look at creation and contemplate how God cares for His creation and has designed the universe to take care of our needs, we will not sin the next time we are tempted to doubt God’s love, goodness, and provision for us as His people (Matthew 6:25-33). Here Satan lies about God’s good plans concerning His own.

Finally, Satan lies and says that they can become Gods themselves! The devil calls the original couple to forget about Genesis 1 and 2, what they’ve experienced in the idyllic paradise and what they have learned as they have communed with their Creator. This empty promise, this false hope, and Satan’s other lies will lead them into emptiness and a sense of hopelessness. Today, many still believe this same lie, some in the name of religion and some with no religious affiliation. In the spiritual realm, Mormonism teaches that Jesus was a man who became a god and that anyone can eventually become a god. In the secular sphere, humanism teaches that people are of supreme importance, not the divine. In humanism, people are the measure of right and wrong; solving problems from within ourselves and in the world is possible through our strength and knowledge and working for the benefit of human beings because of shared humanity and not because of the character or commands of a particular god. Lastly, we see Satan lie about our place in God’s created order.

The opening question of Genesis 3 makes us aware of our adversary. This enemy of ours will stop at nothing to kill, steal, and destroy people made in the image of God (John 10:10). Peter tells us that this is his mission as he compares Satan to a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). One of the ways that he tries to bring utter destruction to people’s lives and the lives of believers, too, is to get us to believe his lies about God’s person, His plans, and our proper place in God’s brilliant and “very good” design. While we see our original parents fall for Satan’s lies in paradise, our Savior overcame Satan’s lies in a parched wilderness with the truth of God’s Word (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus’ victory in using God’s Word to combat and defeat Satan’s twisting of God’s Word provides a battle plan for us today.

Even though Eve didn’t have the luxury of God’s Word fully revealed and written (though she had a reliable source, her husband Adam, concerning this initial command of God), we do today. We would be wise to heed the advice of Psalm 119:11 since we have God’s complete revelation of Himself easily accessible, which says,

I have hidden your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.

As we memorize verses that teach us about God’s person, his plan, and our place in His good plans, we will see through Satan’s lies and render them powerless against us. God’s Word in our hearts rendering Satan’s lies ineffective, will bring us joy and God glory.

This Week’s Memory Verse:

Genesis 3:15

And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”


Week 2 – Creation and Us

Scripture: Genesis 1:24-31; 2:4-25

Hey, and welcome back to our study through 52 major stories of the Bible! If you read the first post or listened to my attempted podcast for week 1, Creation and God, thank you for continuing this adventure through Scripture with me! If this is your first time with >SM and our journey through the 52 major stories of the Bible, then I am thankful and humbled that God has led you here!

In our first story together, we looked at the creation week, in general, to see what creation tells us about God. In our second week of focusing on the Genesis creation account, we will focus on God’s creative work on day six. Day six will answer the question, “What does creation tell us about ourselves?”

On day six, we see God perform two creative acts like He did on day three. As we discussed before, days one through six complements one another. On day three, God calls forth the dry ground and commanded the ground to sprout vegetation (1:9-13). To inhabit the land and consume the produce of the flourishing vegetation, God created animals and then humans on day six, according to Genesis 1:24-31.

Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind—livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.” And that is what happened. 25 God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

27 So God created human beings in his own image.
    In the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

29 Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. 30 And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened.

31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!

And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.

These verses that Moses wrote describing God’s creative work on day six remind us that God alone can create, that He creates with thought and intentionality, and that when He creates, He creates something good. Perhaps unrecognized by many, Moses has progressively and purposely lengthened the description of each day as the creation week advanced. More words are designated to describe God’s creative work during the present day than the day before. Just like every fourth of July fireworks celebration gradually builds up to its grand finale, Moses has built upon each day of God’s creative work until His grand final act of creation explodes radiantly and beautifully on the pages of Scripture – the creation of man.

With more words given to day six than any other day of creation, these verses call for our attention, like a teacher calling for her class’s attention as she is about to reveal the answers for a test as she reviews the unit. These few verses are packed with valuable nuggets that answer some of life’s most pressing questions. This blog will address two of them: Who am I? Where do I find my worth?

Let’s focus on Genesis 1:26 – 27.

26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

27 So God created human beings in his own image.
    In the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

These two verses describe the crowning work of God’s creation, people. Of all the creative acts, this is the only one preceded by divine contemplation. “Let us make” replaces the impersonal phrases of “Let there be” and “Let the earth” connected to God’s other creative acts. God gets His hands dirty, so to speak, when He creates people (Genesis 2:7, 21-22). We see that God alone makes people in His image, whereas the rest of creation is produced by its kind. God blesses creature life by saying to be fruitful and fill the earth, but to people, He says to multiply and rule over the planet. These differences between people and the rest of God’s creation (and God’s creative work in general, it seems) led David to write the hymn of praise found in Psalm eight, which focuses on the incomparable greatness of God.

When answering the question, “Who am I,” one can be certain that you are not a mistake or the product of random chance but an intentional creation of God! My great-grandmother used to have a picture hanging on her refrigerator. The picture was a drawing of a little boy who had his head resting on his hands. Above the picture of the boy were these words, “I know I’m somebody because God don’t make no junk.” This picture’s message was true of her and is true for me, you, and every other person – period! You are made by a loving Creator who desires you to do life (and eternity) with Him and has provided the way for you to do just that (John 3:16). For everyone who has been saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus, not only are you not a mistake but because of Jesus, you are God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:0)!

Verses 26 and 27 tell us that our ability to know God and be in a relationship with Him is not by chance but by design. Humanity can commune with God, distinguishing them from the rest of God’s creation. This ability to dialogue with God is because of the designed plan of God. God made people in His image, and this distinction allows us to interact with and know our Creator.

So what does it mean that God has made us in His image? Many may focus on one aspect of our humanity to define God’s image. For example, since God is Creator and people are creative, the ability to be creative is what it means to be made in the image of God. Still, others point to the capability of people to make intelligent decisions as being made in the image of a wise God. Another characteristic that some use to explain the image of God is that humans can make moral choices. Our capability to make ethical decisions reflect the perfect righteous character of God. However, each of the above reasons alone cannot capture what it means for people to be made in the image of God.

To help us define the image of God or the imago Dei, we need to know what the Hebrew word for image, Tselem, means. Tselem means “similar but not identical.” We as people are like God, but we are not God. God making us in His image is the sum of all the human attributes above, plus many more aspects of our humanity, including our spirituality. These qualities together allow us to be like God but not be God. Like the moon’s surface reflects the sun’s light onto the earth’s surface, being made in the image of God allows us to reflect His image to one another, creation, and up to Him, all as acts of worship.

The image of God gives all people dignity and worth regardless of age, sex, religion, race, social or economic status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, physical appearance, natural abilities, or what the world values. When humanity collectively loses sight of this foundational truth, we lose our ability to appreciate, respect, and love others and our moral compass. When a group of people loses sight of all people bearing the image of God, we see it evidenced in how little life is valued. For example, in a 2020 poll, more Canadians condemned using plastic straws (a combined 51% considered using plastic straws as always or usually morally wrong) than doctor-assisted deaths (20%) or abortion (26%). Genesis shows us that all lives, lives in the womb, lives outside the womb, the young, the old, the disabled, the mentally ill, everyone is valuable because God has made them in His image.

Genesis 1:26-27 helps us understand that our worth is connected to our Creator. If God is great and priceless, then people made in His image must be of immense value too. If we allow this truth to guide our lives, we can be free from destructive habits that may come from trying to find our self-worth in our relationships, achievements, possessions, or how we look, at or despite any costs. The image of God gives all people dignity and worth (Genesis 1:26-27, 9:6; James 3:9). While Genesis 1:26-27 provides the anchor to which everyone should tie their self-worth, Ephesians 1:3-8 reminds God’s people of their identity and worth in Christ.

The clip below is from the movie Overcomer. In this powerful clip, a young girl named Hannah Scott, who had wrestled with her self-worth and identity, found her true worth and identity in Christ and His Word. I find the scene motivational and encouraging. I have experienced the freedom and peace in anchoring my value to my Creating Savior (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16) alone, and I pray that if you haven’t, you will too!

You are valuable because you bear the image of the Creator. In case you are still doubting your value as a person, let me share or remind you of how much God values you. He loves you so much that He sent His One and Only Son into the world so that if you believe in Him, you won’t spend eternity separated from Him but with Him for all eternity! This sacrificial act shows God as loving as He is powerful! Do you feel the desire to know this God? If so, please check out the video below to find out how!


Week 1 – Creation and God

Scripture: Genesis 1:1-2:4

There are probably no more debated chapters of the Bible than Genesis 1 and 2. From creation versus evolution to young earth versus old earth, and perspectives on how to read these initial chapters either as historical narrative or simply figuratively, the reason for debate are numerous. However, as we look at Creation and God, we will set aside these secondary issues – though important – and focus on what I believe to be the primary focus of Genesis 1 and 2.

At its core, the purpose of Moses’ account of the universe’s beginning is theological. Genesis chapters 1, and 2 teach us about God and how we relate to Him.

Let’s begin.

Genesis 1:1-2

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

These two verses provide the summary of Genesis 1-2. God is the sole Creator who is distinct from and independent of His creation. Before creation, nothing existed except the Triune God. This means that God is eternal, a truth that informed part of Moses’ prayer in Psalm 90. In Psalm 90:2 (NIV), Moses speaks of God’s eternality, His existence before He spoke the cosmos into existence!

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

This eternal God created “the heavens and the earth.” The phrase “the heavens and the earth” is a literary device known as a merism. A merism states two opposites and includes everything from one opposite to the other. Moses says that God made everything, period. Paul clearly confirms Moses’ words from Genesis that God created all things in the opening chapter of Colossians.

Colossians 1:16

for through him (Jesus, God the Son) God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through him and for him.

The Triune God created everything, even the elements needed to create, by simply speaking it into existence (Psalm 33:6, 9). Genesis 1:1 teaches us that God created the world out of nothing. Sometimes you might hear someone describe God creating something out of nothing by saying that God created ex nihilo. Ex nihilo is a Latin phrase meaning “out of nothing.” Creation ex nihilo emphasizes that before God began to create the universe, nothing else existed except Himself.

The Holy Spirit then leads Moses to record God’s orderly creation of “the heavens and the earth,” with what the Bible describes as six days of creation and God resting on the seventh day. While there is debate surrounding the meaning of the word “days” in theological circles, for the sake of our study in this series, I simply want to point out that the Bible’s account of creation describes a singular Creator God who intentionally brings order out of chaos and this account stands in stark contrast to other creation myths believed during the time of Moses.

As we look at the chart below, we see that the six days of the creation narrative can be divided into two groups. Days 1-3 show God transforming a world that is inhabitable into one that is inhabitable. Days 4-6 describe God creating things to inhabit the corresponding space prepared by God on days 1-3.

Three Important Truths from the Creation Week

God alone is Creator.

Genesis 1 tells us that there is only one creative power in the universe; Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created.” The unquestioned belief in the existence of many gods was an unquestioned assumption in the ancient Middle East. However, the Holy Spirit, through Moses unapologetically declares that there one God, separate from and supreme over His creation. Since He is greater than His creation, He alone and not any part of His creation, should be worshipped.

God created with intentionality.

As you can see from reading Genesis 1 and observing the chart above, God created the universe and its inhabitants in an orderly way, displaying His unmatched wisdom. Other ancient Near East creation myths portray creation as an afterthought or an unintentional result between disputing gods. For ancient readers, this revealed that they were not simply an unintended byproduct of gods feuding but the pinnacle of God’s creation week. God had prepared everything for Adam and Eve to flourish so they could enjoy Him, the Creator, and His creation.

Today, we are not tempted to believe and embrace creation myths like the Enuma Elish or the Epic of Atrahasis. Still, the theory of evolution can lead people to believe that they are simply the random result of millions of years of cells and life evolving. Every person who hears or reads the Bible’s account of origins can know that they are not an afterthought, but the pinnacle of God’s creation, placed in a world prepared for them to enjoy and thrive with a purpose and hope. When we embrace the Bible’s account of creation to form our worldview, we can say with David that we are “so wonderfully made!”

God declares His creation good.

“And God saw that it was good” is a key phrase through the creation account. Creation is good because God calls it good. Later in Genesis 3, we will see that the perfect creation of God in Genesis 1 is marred because of sin entering the world. However, we can still see beauty in God’s creation in cotton candy skies, during a sunrise or sunset, in the joy and laughter experienced in our relationships, and in the comforting peace and companionship, we experience as we pet our dog as it lays in our lap after a long day. We enjoy the goodness of Creation because a good God brought it into existence. The good in creation that we enjoy should be received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4), enjoyed joyfully (1 Timothy 6:10), and stir us to praise our Creator (Revelation 4:11).

Week One’s Main Thing

What do we learn about the Creator?

We learn that there is one God who created everything. This God is separate from His creation, independent of His creation, lovingly provides for His creation, and is sovereign over all His creation.

How big is your God?

Has your God become small? In other words, has your vision of God become small? Do you doubt His care for you (Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:28)? Do other gods seem more desiring and satisfying (Jeremiah2:11-13)? Are you relying on the all-powerful Creator God or depending on your thoughts, abilities, and strength (Isaiah 40:28-31)? Are you seeking direction from the all-wise Creator and His Word? Or are you looking to horoscopes, podcasts, self-help books, or your wisdom for direction (Proverbs 3:5-6; Isaiah 40:12-14)?

If you find that your vision of God is smaller than He reveals Himself in Genesis 1, I invite you to glance at the stellar nursery NGC604 below with me.

C23YH0 Nursery of New Stars This is a Hubble Space Telescope image of a vast nebula called NGC 604

The picture above is of a giant stellar nursery! This cosmic nursery gives birth to new stars. Scientists say that there are 200 new stars in this nursery. From end to end, this nursery measures 1,500 light years. This means that it would take you 1,500 years, traveling at the speed of light, to make it from one end of this nursery to the other. If you are like me and need to be reminded of how fast light travels, it travels at 186,000 miles per second!

Let me try again if that doesn’t cause you to pick your jaw up off the floor. This massive nursery isn’t just a tiny part of the universe but a minor part of a single galaxy! The galaxy that houses NGC 604 is 3 million light years across! But this is only one galaxy, and by merely speaking, God created an estimated 2 Trillion galaxies.

Psalm 33:6

The Lord merely spoke,
    and the heavens were created.
He breathed the word,
    and all the stars were born.

As breathtaking and astounding as the staggering size of God’s creation is and His power to bring it into existence, an even more awe-demanding truth is that God is as loving as He is powerful!

Psalm 36:5

Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.

Need to enlarge your vision of God even more? Check out this video!

Week 9 – The Ten Commandments (Part 2)

With four children, sometimes I feel as if I am more of a referee than a parent. I guess one could make the argument that being an effective referee is part of parenting, though. Regardless of how you view the role of referee in relationship to parenting, I often find myself quoting Jesus when trying to put out a fire between two or more of my children.

Luke 6:31

Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

Usually, the flame of anger and argumentation has happened because one child has done something wrong to the other, causing hurt or causing the other to feel devalued or aggravated. The Holy Spirit still has His work cut out for Him in each of my children for them to be willing to obey this command of their Lord because every time I remind them of their Lord’s words, they reply, “When they do or don’t do ________ then I will or won’t do ________.” I always respond that someone must go first to break the cycle. As I write, an even better answer comes to mind, our decision and willingness to obey Christ are independent of what others do or how others treat us. Jesus told His disciples that,

John 14:15

If you love me, obey my commandments.

Regardless of how one of my kids speaks to or treats another, the offended can obey God’s commands or blame their sibling for their decision to disobey God’s commands. However, as we have seen in the garden of Eden and in Luke 6:27-36, trying to blame others for our disobedience doesn’t make the passing grade with God. God calls us to imitate Him in every way, even by extending love, grace, and mercy to those who have wronged us (Matthew 5:43-45; Luke 6:35-36). Matthew and Luke provided tangible ways in these respective chapters for the original hearers to love their enemies – those who would cheat, harm, persecute or use them.

When asked what the greatest commandment of God was, Jesus said that we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He went on to say that there is a second command of equal importance,

Mark 12:31

“… ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

I mentioned it last week, and it bears repeating the ten words that God gave Israel informed them on how they were to practically demonstrate their love for God and others. For us to demonstrate our love of God, we obey the first four words and love our neighbor as ourselves. The final six words instruct us on what loving our neighbor looks like in real life! If we are not loving others like ourselves, we are not able to love God supremely like He deserves and as we so deeply desire to do so as His children. The second part of the ten commandments referees us in how God wants us as His people to love others.

Exodus 20:12

Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

To honor implies acknowledging the weight of something. In this context, it means that children give proper respect to their parents’ position. God has given parents the task and weighty privilege of representing God to their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 2 Timothy 1:5). For children, this is the first and primary relationship where their understanding of who God is and how He relates to them is shaped. As parents, may we humbly ask God our Father to imitate Him in everything so that our children can have a healthy picture of who their Creating Savior is (Ephesians 5:1). It is also the primary relationship where children learn submissiveness and obedience. The ability of each generation to honor their Heavenly Father is learned and possible if they learn how to honor their earthly parents. If a generation doesn’t honor authority in their own family structures, they will also likely dishonor God too.

Like the now classic country song, Time Marches On, by Tracy Lawrence, children become adults, and parents become gray. During this life stage, believers are to honor their parents by taking care of them in their old age. We honor them by making sure their needs are met (physically, emotionally, spiritually), practicing patience, and even honoring their last wills and testaments while maintaining unity among the remaining family.

The promise attached to this verse contains several nuances. Within the immediate context for individuals, one who despised or scorned their parents was at risk of being put to death by the community (Leviticus 20:9; Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Within this setting, disrespect almost guaranteed a shorter individual lifespan by one who neglected this command. Secondly, if this command was followed faithfully by parents and children throughout all of life’s stages, it provided healthy family units and an adequate care system for life’s basic needs making longer lifespans possible. Finally, obedience to this instruction and the covenant, in general, meant that the nation would enjoy success in the land God was giving them. Still, disobedience would lead to God’s judgment of the country.

Exodus 20:13

You must not murder.

God instructs His covenant people to never murder. Since people are made in the image of God and thus are highly valuable, taking someone’s life for selfish reasons is forbidden. This command does not include capital punishment, self-defense, or divinely ordained holy war. Israel was a theocratic community. God delegated the right to take human life only at His command or direct call to holy war. In the immediate setting, no Israelite was permitted to take someone’s life by their own authority.

Today, we do not live in a theocracy, so God has delegated the state to carry out acts of justice (Romans 13:1-5). This command teaches us that God values life; it is sacred to Him. Since life is of value to God, we should treasure life too. Everyone, the unborn and born, the young and old, the healthy and unhealthy, the abled and disabled, is made in God’s image and thus deserves love and respect. Since life is precious to God, it has to be dear to God’s people. Jesus shows us the heart behind this commandment by liking hate to murder in Matthew 5:22. May we love life because the Giver of Life loves life, and may we demonstrate this love for life even in how we speak towards or about others (James 3:9).

Exodus 20:14

You must not commit adultery.

Leviticus and Deuteronomy contain other prohibitions of sexual immorality and regulations for sexual purity, but this word of God focuses on the marital relationship. No one is allowed to have sexual relations with anyone but their spouse. The author of Hebrews calls us to honor marriage by being faithful to our spouse and marriage (Hebrews 13:4). God’s desire through His command is for His people to have pure hearts. Jesus would explain years after Moses received this word that even if a man lusts after a woman, he has committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Of course, the same purity that God desires out of His sons, He also wants from His daughters. Marital fidelity provides a sure foundation of trust for the relationship between spouses to flourish and provides safety and stability for the family to thrive. This call to purity and faithfulness to our spouse reflects God’s pure and faithful love to us as His people (Ephesians 5:25-30).

Exodus 20:15

You must not steal.

This instruction means that God allows personal ownership and possession of things; otherwise, how could one steal something unless it belonged to someone? Plainly stated, this command forbids taking anything that does not belong to us without permission. Stealing threatens social order and peace and causes pain to others by undermining the process that allows them to access and possess those things needed to live. I tell my youngest son that stealing hurts people because it takes away what they have worked for and keeps them from providing for their needs. If we steal, we do not love others as we love ourselves because we don’t want anyone to take away the equivalent of my son’s blankets in our lives.

As God’s people, we ought to be people of thanksgiving. Having a thankful heart helps us focus on God as our provider. Since He has provided for us in the past, He will also provide for us in our present and future (Matthew 6:31-33). An attitude of thankfulness also curves our craving for more moving us from a place of discontentment to being content (Proverbs 30:7-9; Philippians 4:12-13).

Exodus 20:16

You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.

While this word is often summarized as always telling the truth and never lying, it is directly related to legal testimony and witness. For Israel or any other society to have a fair and right justice system, its people must be people of truth. Witnesses must be truthful in reporting what they saw and not withholding information that is important to reaching a just decision on a matter (Deuteronomy 19:18). A society’s judges must also act according to the law unbiasedly and without accepting bribes; they must act in a truthful and honorable manner. God knew that a nation’s court system solely rests on its people’s honesty. Since God cannot tell lies and we are to imitate Him, we, as followers of Jesus, are always to speak truthfully and never tell lies (Titus 1:2; Ephesians 4:25; 5:1).

Exodus 20:17

You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”

To covet something is to desire, want, or crave something. This final command does not say, “do not covet.” There is a Scriptural difference between wanting something one should desire and craving something that already exclusively belongs to someone else. We can covet people’s prayers, for God to work in us, and even for Jesus to return. We can have holy cravings for even God in His holiness desires Mount Zion in Psalm 68:16.

However, coveting is sinful when we strongly desire something that belongs to anyone else. The word neighbor isn’t just referring to those who live close to you, but to anyone, you come in some form of contact with. The Hebrew word for house could be easily translated as “family and property.” Verse seventeen then includes specific things that we shouldn’t covet. Coveting is the starting point for breaking the seventh and eighth commandments, so we ought to be on high alert when it comes to selfish desires that arise, tempting us to satisfy those cravings by violating God’s law if we were to act upon them. The remedy for covetousness is trusting that God knows what is best for us and that He has given us everything in life that we have and withheld everything we don’t have so that we might know Him the way we do or lead us into a deeper relationship with Him.

The other week I took Zoey and Landyn over to my parent’s to let them try out the bow and arrow they received for Christmas. They did pretty well for the first time. While we were enjoying our time together, the Holy Spirit helped me see an opportunity for a faith talk. While we were taking turns shooting, I explained to them that one of the meanings of the word sin is “missing the mark.” God has called us to be holy as He is holy, and if we were to do that, then we would have to hit the bullseye when it comes to keeping all of His commands and loving Him supremely. I went on to say that just like we have all missed the bullseye with most of our shot attempts; we have not always perfectly obeyed God’s laws – we have missed His mark.

Just like every arrow that misses the bull’s eye informs us that we need to make some adjustments on our next attempt to hit the target (or at least get closer), when we see that we can’t keep God’s words perfectly, it shows us that we need help in being holy as God is holy. We cannot maintain God’s standards perfectly, which is why Paul says that God’s law shows us that we are sinners because we cannot hit the bull’s eye of obedience 100% of the time (Galatians 3:29).

Yet, the Good News of Jesus is that He did keep all of God’s commands perfectly in heart and deed! The Bible tells us that Jesus was sinless and completely righteous, hitting the mark of God’s law flawlessly (2 Corinthians 5:31; 1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 2:22). He loved the Father supremely and others perfectly! Because of this feat, we can enjoy a right relationship with God by admitting to Him that we have not and can not keep His commands wholeheartedly all the time. In other words, we agree that we are sinners (Romans 3:23) and that what we deserve for our cosmic law-breaking is an eternity separated from Him (Romans 6:23). We have to accept this bad news before we can be recipients of the blessings that come from the Good News as the result of Jesus’ person and His work. The Good News is that God offers us the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, His Son (Romans 6:23; John 3:16). When we believe this news as fact, we demonstrate that our belief is genuine by turning away from our sin and turning to Jesus by confessing Him as Lord (Romans 10:9-10; Acts 4:12). When we place our trust in Jesus, God credits Christ’s righteousness to us, and we stand before God, holy, because of what Jesus did on our behalf (Hebrews 10:14).

These ten words of Exodus 20 serve as a compass, pointing us down the path of right living with God and others. They also tell us our need for a Savior and that this Savior is Jesus. I pray that our Lord uses these couple weeks of focusing on the ten commandments to help you love Him supremely, love your neighbor as yourself, and, if need be, open your eyes to your need for rescuing from your sin by Jesus, the only one who can save us from our sin!

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