What we are reading this week (beginning Thursday, May 27, 2021):
• Exodus 7-13
• Isaiah 57-63
• Luke 13-19
• Psalms 57-63
Notes on Exodus
Things have heated up tremendously between Moses and Pharaoh. Now Moses gets to roll out the ten plagues. All of these plagues are connected in some way to the false worship of the gods of Egypt. Moses becomes frustrated and even sarcastic as Pharaoh continues to stubbornly hold out against plague after plague: (“I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you… that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs…” 8.9). The first two plagues (blood and frogs) the Egyptian magicians could duplicate (to some extent). But by number three (gnats) they had run out of tricks (8.18). Even at this early point, Pharaoh’s own guys declared, “This is the finger of God” (v 19). It’s hard to know how Pharaoh could remain so steadfastly stubborn. You can imagine the despondency at least in his attendants every time Moses and Aaron showed up. “What is next? How bad will this one be? Just how bad will things get?” In 9.11, “The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them.” This was getting serious! And humiliating! Pharaoh’s officials began to respond to Moses’ words: “Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried to bring their slaves and livestock inside” (9.20). Moses’ official request throughout was only to go into the wilderness temporarily to offer sacrifices (e.g. 10.9). But everyone knew that they would never return. Once the horse is out of the barn… The last plague is so terrible, it’s hard again to understand why Pharaoh could not accept the fact that it would indeed happen just like all of the others, and that the result would not be worth his resistance. See chapter 11. This act of God is so awesome (literally) in its scope, the resulting celebration/remembrance that resulted (the Passover) is the most important event on the Jewish calendar to this day. Details of the day and of the celebration are given in chapter 12. The Passover is a one-day (actually, a one-evening) affair, and then is followed immediately by the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which runs for the following seven days (see 12.17-18). Even with all of the plagues (perhaps because of them) the Israelites had gained favor with their Egyptian neighbors. (12.36). The Lord began appearing before them in a pillar of cloud/pillar of fire in 13.21. They could travel by day or night!
Notes on Isaiah
Even though written to a specific group at a specific time, the words of 57.12 apply to all who think they are good enough for heaven: “I will expose your righteousness and your works, and they will not benefit you.”
Chapter 58 is an excellent primer on the theology of fasting. It is powerful to break chains, set people free, do damage to the kingdom of darkness. There are heart requirements attached. There are benefits that include healing and answered prayer.
The metaphor of feasting at the end of a treatise on fasting is a nice touch! (58.14)
The reality that no one could qualify as our Savior other than God himself is spelled out in 59.15-17 and 63.5.
Another appeal to Israel to be evangelists to the entire world is found in 60.3.
Notes on Luke
Jesus highlights the concept of “sin”—as opposed to “sins”—in 13.1-5. After the people described to Jesus an unimaginably horrible practice of sinning that had been going on, he replied that if you don’t repent you are no better off (13.5).
Jesus was so powerful in word and deed, his enemies were “humiliated” (13.17). This would contribute greatly to a level of rage and anger that will lead to a murderous spirit.
This humiliation is played out in a specific incident in the next chapter. See 14.1-6. Notice in verse 4, “But they remained silent,” and again in verse 6, “They had nothing to say.”
In 14.33 we find, “…those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Are there any Americans left who qualify?
In chapter 15, we read about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. All tell the same story. The first two allude to the fact that heaven itself rejoices when lost people are found.
The third is the greatest parable Jesus ever told, I think. There are so many layers to it.
It’s hard to say which son is really the prominent figure in this parable. The older son has always reminded me of “church kids,” those of us who grew up “clean” and never experienced an exciting life of sin.
We are made to feel at times really left out… not only because we didn’t get the experience to taste the wild side (and people do indeed enjoy it for a season), but then the former sinners get all of the accolades and attention for their riveting testimonies. Ours would just put people to sleep, we think. So, yes, we do get a little irritated at the lost one returning and getting all of the attention.
There is a verse here for those of us that feel that way. “… everything I have is yours.” Even though sin sounds exciting, there is always loss of some sort connected to it. Those who grew up without deep experiences and seasons of sin retain things that the others do not. There is a special place for those who have resisted sin (or even simply been protected from it by others). We therefore need to embrace this truth and then truly celebrate when lost ones come back home.
The rich man and Lazarus (16.19-31).
A theme here is that the best conveyor of spiritual truth is the word of God, not exciting, spellbinding and incredible testimonies. The rich man asks Abraham to send someone from the grave back to his agnostic family (now that would be quite a sight!), but Abraham says that if the word of God isn’t enough to turn their hearts (Moses and the Prophets), then sending someone back from the dead wouldn’t work, either.
We have confirmation of this when we read about a man named (ironically or not) Lazarus in John 11, whom Jesus raised from the dead. How well did his testimony go over on the skeptics? They rejected his message (just as they had the word of God) and tried to kill him (John 12.10).
In 17.2, Jesus says something really provocative. In talking about those who would harm children, he does not call for them to repent or to change, or to go to counseling.
He simply says the world would have been better off without them, and it would have better to have tied a rock around their neck and had them throw into the sea than to live and harm children. How many in our world this applies to today! Lord, help us.
I love the words of Jesus in 17.20-21: “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
In the first 14 verses of chapter 18, we read more on Jesus’ teaching on prayer. I never noticed before just how much teaching on prayer we find in this gospel.
Jesus calls Zacchaeus by name, so he must have been well-known (and not at all popular with the people; see 9.5-7). Jesus recognized spiritual hunger.
Notes on Psalms
Psalm 57: Imagine the great warrior David, hiding in a cave. What does he do? He collects his thoughts and writes another psalm. In a cave.
David seems to become overly harsh toward his enemies (see 58.6-8). For us, we should take in these verses remembering that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Our enemies are spiritual forces of darkness. Psalm 60.12 “With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.”
Psalm 63.1-4 are verses worth memorizing and meditating upon: O, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.