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A Need for Margin

H – Highlight

Leviticus 23:22 – “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”

E – Explain

In Leviticus 23, we see God give instructions for the Sabbath and for the 3 major feasts of Israel. As God gives the direction for the feast of first fruits, also called Pentecost because it was held 50 days after Passover, he reminds the people of their requirement not to fully harvest their fields. The people were to leave the corners of the fields unharvested for the good of the poor. Note that they were not merely to give the poor a handout but were to make it possible for the poor to work to get food. At the same time, the owners were not to try to squeeze every last bit of profit out of their property. They were to leave a margin to be able to care for the needy.

A —Apply

First, I apply this by recognizing that God’s system for living is the best. That makes sense. God is wiser than man. His plan to govern a nation would be the best.

Second, I see that God reminds us that those with work ought not spend to the last penny. Instead, we are to leave margin for giving and caring for others. This would be true for those who should be sure they are able to give to the church.

I also think the idea of not harvesting the whole field would bring me a principle of scheduling too. I should not fill my time to a point that I cannot take a phone call or meet a need.

Finally, I see that it is good for the poor to work for their food instead of just receiving it. It is a trap to have a person handed food without labor. Of course, there are those incapable of work, and we want to care for them. But there are also those who could work, but who, in our system, understand that doing work would actually be less productive and provide less for their families.

R – Respond

Lord, I first thank you for showing us how things should be. I know that your system is better than any other. I pray that you will help me to live with enough margin in my life that I can care for others around me. I pray that I will not spend time or money until I have nothing left.

Bloody atonement

H – Highlight

Leviticus 9:7 – Then Moses said to Aaron, “Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people, and bring the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as the Lord has commanded.”

E – Explain

In Leviticus 8-9, we see the ordination of Aaron as high priest and the first offerings made for the people in this new priesthood.

A – Apply

I think what grabs my attention is not so much the verse that I have highlighted as the detail and bloodiness of the whole affair. The commands that Aaron needed to follow were meticulous. As Hebrews 9:22 reminds us, almost everything was purified with blood. This was a messy, ugly thing that had to be done so that the sins of people could be covered and so they could approach the Lord.

The application for me is one of awe and gratitude. My sin is such a thing that I should not be allowed to approach the Lord. But God has done what needed to be done. No bull, no goat, no birds can shed their blood for my sin. The spotless Son of god died to pay the price for my sin so that I can approach the Lord.

R – Respond

Lord, I thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus for my sins. I thank you for the picture, here in Leviticus, of the need for blood to cover my sin. I confess my failure and fallenness. I pray that you will help me live now to honor you, living forgiven. Help me to be changed to be more given to you in all things.

In Accord with the Design

H – Highlight

Exodus 26:30 – Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to the plan for it that you were shown on the mountain.

E – Explain

This section includes the instructions that God gave to Moses for the construction of the tabernacle.

A – Apply

There are a couple of places in this instruction set where God reminds Moses that he will do all these things in accord with the design that God showed him on the mountain. Moses was to follow instructions. Moses was not to design a tabernacle. Moses was not to come up with a plan for how God would be worshipped. Moses certainly was not to design a plan for the people to gain forgiveness. He was to listen to and communicate God’s plan to the people.

We must not be silly enough to think that we design what the church does. We are to listen to God’s instruction and obey it. Nor do we need to defend the word of God to the world. God has told us his way. We do not owe anybody an explanation for God’s standards or his worship. God has said what we are to do. We obey.

R – Respond

Lord, I pray that you will help me to be faithful to your word. Help me not to try to make up anything you have not commanded. Help me hear your instructions and follow them. Help me trust you and rely fully on your word.

If You Will Indeed Obey

H – Highlight

Exodus 19:5-6 – 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

E – Explain

As god prepares to meet with the people at Mount Sinai and to give the Ten Commandments, making his covenant with Israel, he makes a promise. If the nation will obey him, they will be his treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. There is a very clear promise of ongoing blessing if Israel will obey God’s law.

A – Apply

The promise of god here reminds me of god’s relationship with Adam in the garden. Many who write about the garden suggest that Adam was part of a covenant of works with God. These suggest that, if Adam had obeyed God, he would have, at some point, been granted eternal life in paradise with no longer an opportunity to fail. In a similar way, it looks as though God is telling this nation that, if they will obey him as a nation, they will grow into the very kingdom that some Jews in the first century were expecting Jesus to bring.

I am not sure about the if side of the equation. I cannot say how long Adam would have had to obey in order to be granted eternal life. I cannot say what would have happened had Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and found a repentant nation and a proper temple. Instead, I know that neither Adam nor Israel obeyed.

What gets my attention here is not the speculative question. Instead, what gets my attention is the failure. Adam failed. Israel failed. And, if we were required to obey in order to have the favor of God, we would be fully incapable of success. This in capacity would be our own fault, not the fault of the Lord and his commands. We fail in small and we fail in large. Our sin would wreck our souls beyond repair.

This is a reason we praise Jesus with such gratitude. Jesus fulfilled perfect righteousness where we would fail. Jesus fully pleased his Father and, through his righteousness, earned eternal life for all who are his. The perfect life of Jesus is vital to our salvation as well as his sacrificial death and resurrection.

R – Respond

Lord, I understand that, were my eternal life based on my obedience, I would lose it. I am a sinner. I fail to obey. No obedience in part can ever make up for my disobedience. I thank you for your glorious plan of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. I thank you for Jesus and his perfection. I thank you for the imputation of righteousness. Please help me live in celebration of and gratitude for this salvation.

They Shall Know

H – Highlight

Exodus 14:1-4 – 1 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. 3 For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.

E – Explain

Here is the account of the parting of the Red Sea and the rescue of Israel. God told Israel where to go. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he and the Egyptian army would chase the people of God. The people feared and complained against Moses and the Lord. God protected Israel with the pillar of fire until the sea was parted and the people walked through. And God got glory as he destroyed the Egyptians.

A – Apply

Many things got my attention in this chapter which apply. First is the fact that God did what he did here for the sake of his own glory. God was intent on showing that he is greater than Egypt, its military might, and its false gods. And the Lord did display his glory. I must recall that God’s glory is the most important thing in the universe.

Second, I take note of the complaint of the people. In the paragraph of verses 10-14, the Israelites gripe and complain against Moses and the Lord. They assume that they would have been better off not obeying the Lord but simply staying in Egypt. This reminds me that, even as we strive to lead people toward the things of God, there will be times when doing the right thing will be met with negativity. Moses needed to trust in the Lord. I too need to trust god rather than be discouraged by the people or discouraged by the circumstance.

Third, I note the absolute sovereignty of God. Every step in this chapter is his crafting. He told Israel where to go, hardened Pharaoh’s heart, defended the people, parted the sea, and drown the army. God is almighty. God is in control. I should not let myself forget these things in a world that looks godless and out-of-control.

R – Respond

Lord, I praise you. Your glory is to be seen and magnified in this account. Your glory is in fact the most important thing, though I do not always remember it. I pray that you will show me your glory, show me your power, and keep me focused firmly on this as most important. I pray that you will keep me from complaining about my circumstances. I pray that you will keep me confident in you even when those around me wish to complain about the situation in which we live. And I pray that you will remind me of your great and sovereign power as we walk through this difficult world.

Hardening Pharaoh’s Heart

H – Highlight

Exodus 11:10 – Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.

E – Explain

As we see thee encounters between Moses and Pharaoh, we repeatedly see that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. We have to conclude from this that Moses, who wrote this text under the inspiration of the Lord, intended that we understand that the entire situation is under the sovereign will of God. The Lord acted to put Pharaoh in the place he ended up.

Because I have also worked on this text before, I believe that we can say both that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart even as Pharaoh hardened his own heart. As I have taught this text, God acted in his sovereignty to have Pharaoh behave in concert with exactly who Pharaoh was. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart did not make Pharaoh evil where he otherwise would have been good. Instead, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart made Pharaoh the most like his natural sinful self that Pharaoh could be.

A – Apply

The point for me to apply today is to remember the sovereign hand of God. Nobody acts to thwart the sovereign will of God. Even evil dictators are within the bounds of the Lord’s ultimate will. And, yes, sometimes those evil men will do evil things in accord with their evil nature. And when they do this evil, the Lord will use his mighty power to bring glory to his name even through the evil men living in accord with their hardened hearts.

R – Respond

Lord, I pray that you will help me to remember that you are sovereignly working your will in all of humanity. We are not able to thwart you. We never threaten your rule. I pray that you will help me remember that you work your will, even when you are setting up evil men for a fall as you allow them to live as they most desire. I pray that you preserve us from evil leaders. I pray that you will show your glory through moving evil men toward faith in Christ. But I also pray that you help me rest in you when your will is other than what would make my steps most peaceful.

God’s Consistent Purpose

H – Highlight

Exodus 9:13-16

13 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. 14 For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

Exodus 9:29 – Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will stretch out my hands to the Lord. The thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, so that you may know that the earth is the Lord’s.

E – explain

In the accounts of the plagues in Exodus 8-9, we see a couple of places where God tells us why he is doing what he is doing in the way he is doing it. I’ll pull out three parts of verses that include explanatory words:

  • “so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth” (14)
  • “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (16)
  • “so that you may know that the earth is the Lord’s” (29)

As God judges or removes plagues, we see that he has a consistent purpose in his actions beyond freeing Israel from Egypt. After all, had God simply wanted to get his people out of the land, he could have done so in a far gentler way. God, by his own word, tells us that he does these things so that observers can know that there is none like him, to show his power, to have his name proclaimed in all the earth, and so that they will know the earth is his.

A – Apply

We see in this passage that God takes actions that are not politically correct, actions that some today would say they dislike, in order that his power and glory might be on display. God wants us to know that he is almighty. He wants us to know that he owns this world. He wants us to know that none can stand against him. He wants us to proclaim his name. God does what he does in the way that he does for his glory.

If we understand this, we will also see that it is our duty, regardless of circumstance, to know and proclaim these things as well. We exist to give God glory. We exist to tell people that there is none like the Lord God Almighty. We exist to proclaim his name.

In many a modern conversation, people will spend their time attempting to justify the acts of god to a world that opposes him. We need to become more willing to tell the world that the Lord is right and the world is wrong. We need to become more willing to face the disapproval of the world as we tell them that the Lord does what he does because the world is his, because his power is infinite, because he wants his name to be known and glorified. We need to be willing to remind folks that God is not judged by us, though we are judged by God.

R – Respond

Lord, as I read this passage, I am reminded that you are sovereign and almighty. I am reminded that this world is yours. And I am reminded that my purpose is not to make the world approve of you. My purpose is to glorify you. I pray that you will help me to proclaim your words and your mighty deeds with absolute honesty and clarity. I pray that you will use my life and acts to show your honor. I pray that I will hunger to see and savor and proclaim your glory more than I want anything in life. And I pray that you will save people by your power, by your grace, for your glory.

Who Am I That I Should Go?

H – Highlight

Exodus 3:10-12 – 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

E – Explain

Moses feels unable to be the person God will use to lead the Israelites up out of Egypt. God, for his part, lets Moses know that God will go with him and accomplish the task.

A – Apply

Like Moses, it is easy to feel unworthy for the task that God has for us. After all, we are sinners. We are weak. The world is big and scary. The problems we face are too large.

But God is with us. His Spirit indwells us. We have no right to claim that we lack what we need to serve the Lord in accord with his word. It might be hard. But God will not fail his people.

R – Respond

Lord, I pray that you will help me to recall the truth of your presence with me. I am unworthy if left to myself. I am unable. But you are worthy. You are strong. You can use me to accomplish your plan. Help me rest in you.

God’s Timing and God’s Glory

H – Highlight

Genesis 41:15-16 – 15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

E – Explain

The context is familiar. Pharaoh has had a dream, and finally the cup-bearer remembers to tell his master about joseph. Now Pharaoh asks joseph to interpret his dream. And Joseph, for his part, is quick to give the credit for any good that happens here to God.

A – Apply

Two things have crossed my mind in this passage. One is that it took two full years after Joseph met the cup-bearer for this man to remember Joseph. This had to be a very hard time. Two years in prison, even when Joseph was the highest ranking prisoner, had to be disturbing. We must recall that God works good things at God’s own timing. God’s timing is perfect, even if we might think the slow pace of change maddening.

But the real point that grabbed my attention today was the humility of Joseph. This man was careful not to try to make himself look good by claiming an ability that was not innately his. Joseph did not brag about his particular gift. Instead, Joseph pointed all the glory to God. This is a thing we want to remember and model.

R – Respond

Lord, I praise you for your perfection. Your timing is perfect. Even when things do not happen at the pace I desire, help me to remember that you are still working your will. You did so in the life of Joseph, and you are doing so in mine.

I also ask you to help me always point to you. I acknowledge here and now that there is no good thing in me that is not a gift from you. I did not earn my salvation—even my faith is a gift. I did not grant myself any abilities. Only you can make any good come from me, and thus all the glory is yours.

God Prepares His People

H – Highlight

Genesis 40:8 – They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”

E – explain

The context here is with Joseph in Egypt because his brothers sold him. He is in prison because of a lie. And now he meets men connected to the Pharaoh. Both men had dreams, and Joseph, by the grace of God, will be able to tell them what these prophetic dreams mean.

A – Apply

Early on, Joseph found himself offending his dad and his brothers because of the dreams that he told them. Now, years later, Joseph is in a place to hear and interpret dreams by a gift that God has given him. This tells me that, though Joseph’s life is hard, God has used Joseph’s experiences to prepare him for the moment he faces.

There are many joys and pains that we will face as followers of the Lord. And there is no way that we can know, when we face these things, how God will use those things in the future. We may presently be able to see how God has prepared us. Or, we may never understand this side of heaven. But we should see from Joseph’s experiences that God is in control and that he uses all sorts of things in our lives to shape us into what he wants us to be for his glory and for the growth of his kingdom.

R – Respond

Lord, I see in Joseph’s experience that you truly use all things in our lives, things we love and things we regret, to accomplish your ultimate will. I pray that you will help me to remember this as I look back on things in my life I regret. I pray that you will help me remember this when I recall things that have happened to me that I do not like. Please, Lord, in this text, help me be comforted as I trust you and your perfect will, a will that I cannot fully understand this side of heaven.