What does it mean that “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart?”…

Let’s start by looking at the meaning and purpose of the ten plagues of Egypt

The Ten Plagues of Egypt—also known as the Ten Plagues, the Plagues of Egypt, or the Biblical Plagues—are described in Exodus 7—12.

The plagues were ten disasters sent upon Egypt by God to convince Pharaoh to free the Israelite slaves from the bondage and oppression they had endured in Egypt for 400 years.

When God sent Moses to deliver the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt, He promised to show His wonders as confirmation of Moses’ authority (Exodus 3:20).

This confirmation was to serve at least two purposes:

1. To show the Israelites that the God of their fathers was alive and worthy of their worship (Exodus 6:6–8; 12:25–27) and

2. To show the Egyptians that their gods were nothing (Exodus 7:5; 12:12; Numbers 33:4).

The Israelites had been enslaved in Egypt for about 400 years and in that time had lost faith in the God of their fathers.

They believed He existed and worshiped Him, but they doubted that He could, or would, break the yoke of their bondage.

The Egyptians, like many pagan cultures, worshiped a wide variety of nature-gods and attributed to their powers the natural phenomena they saw in the world around them.

There was a god of the sun, of the river, of childbirth, of crops, etc.

Events like the annual flooding of the Nile, which fertilized their croplands, were evidences of their gods’ powers and good will.

When Moses approached Pharaoh, demanding that he let the people go, Pharaoh responded by saying, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?

I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2).

Thus began the challenge to show whose God was more powerful.

The first plague, turning the Nile to blood, was a judgment against Apis, the god of the Nile, Isis, goddess of the Nile, and Khnum, guardian of the Nile.

The Nile was also believed to be the bloodstream of Osiris, who was reborn each year when the river flooded.

The river, which formed the basis of daily life and the national economy, was devastated, as millions of fish died in the river and the water was unusable.

Pharaoh was told, “By this you will know that I am the LORD” (Exodus 7:17).

The second plague, bringing frogs from the Nile, was a judgment against Heqet, the frog-headed goddess of birth.

Frogs were thought to be sacred and not to be killed.

God had the frogs invade every part of the homes of the Egyptians, and when the frogs died, their stinking bodies were heaped up in offensive piles all through the land (Exodus 8:13–14).

The third plague, gnats, was a judgment on Set, the god of the desert.

Unlike the previous plagues, the magicians were unable to duplicate this one and declared to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19).

The fourth plague, flies, was a judgment on Uatchit, the fly god.

In this plague, God clearly distinguished between the Israelites and the Egyptians, as no swarms of flies bothered the areas where the Israelites lived (Exodus 8:21–24).

The fifth plague, the death of livestock, was a judgment on the goddess Hathor and the god Apis, who were both depicted as cattle.

As with the previous plague, God protected His people from the plague, while the cattle of the Egyptians died.

God was steadily destroying the economy of Egypt, while showing His ability to protect and provide for those who obeyed Him.

Pharaoh even sent investigators (Exodus 9:7) to find out if the Israelites were suffering along with the Egyptians, but the result was a hardening of his heart against the Israelites.

The sixth plague, boils, was a judgment against several gods over health and disease (Sekhmet, Sunu, and Isis).

This time, the Bible says that the magicians “could not stand before Moses because of the boils.” Clearly, these religious leaders were powerless against the God of Israel.

Before God sent the last three plagues, Pharaoh was given a special message from God.

These plagues would be more severe than the others, and they were designed to convince Pharaoh and all the people “that there is none like me in all the earth” (Exodus 9:14).

Pharaoh was even told that he was placed in his position by God, so that God could show His power and declare His name through all the earth (Exodus 9:16).

As an example of His grace, God warned Pharaoh to gather whatever cattle and crops remained from the previous plagues and shelter them from the coming storm.

Some of Pharaoh’s servants heeded the warning (Exodus 9:20), while others did not.

The seventh plague, hail, attacked Nut, the sky goddess; Osiris, the crop fertility god; and Set, the storm god.

This hail was unlike any that had been seen before. It was accompanied by a fire which ran along the ground, and everything left out in the open was devastated by the hail and fire.

Again, the children of Israel were miraculously protected, and no hail damaged anything in their lands.

Before God brought the next plague, He told Moses that the Israelites would be able to tell their children of the things they had seen God do in Egypt and how it showed them God’s power.

The eighth plague, locusts, again focused on Nut, Osiris, and Set.

The later crops, wheat and rye, which had survived the hail, were now devoured by the swarms of locusts. There would be no harvest in Egypt that year.

The ninth plague, darkness, was aimed at the sun god, Re, who was symbolized by Pharaoh himself. For three days, the land of Egypt was smothered with an unearthly darkness, but the homes of the Israelites had light.

The tenth and last plague, the death of the firstborn males, was a judgment on Isis, the protector of children.

In this plague, God was teaching the Israelites a deep spiritual lesson that pointed to Christ.

Unlike the other plagues, which the Israelites survived by virtue of their identity as God’s people, this plague required an act of faith by them.

God commanded each family to take an unblemished male lamb and kill it.

The blood of the lamb was to be smeared on the top and sides of their doorways, and the lamb was to be roasted and eaten that night.

Any family that did not follow God’s instructions would suffer in the last plague.

God described how He would send the destroyer through the land of Egypt, with orders to slay the firstborn male in every household, whether human or animal.

The only protection was the blood of the lamb on the door. When the destroyer saw the blood, he would pass over that house and leave it untouched (Exodus 12:23).

This is where the term Passover comes from.

Passover is a memorial of that night in ancient Egypt when God delivered His people from bondage.

First Corinthians 5:7 teaches that Jesus became our Passover when He died to deliver us from the bondage of sin.

While the Israelites found God’s protection in their homes, every other home in the land of Egypt experienced God’s wrath as their loved ones died.

This grievous event caused Pharaoh to finally release the Israelites.

By the time the Israelites left Egypt, they had a clear picture of God’s power, God’s protection, and God’s plan for them.

For those who were willing to believe, they had convincing evidence that they served the true and living God.

Sadly, many still failed to believe, which led to other trials and lessons by God.

The result for the Egyptians and the other ancient people of the region was a dread of the God of Israel.

Even after the tenth plague, Pharaoh once again hardened his heart and sent his chariots after the Israelites.

When God opened a way through the Red Sea for the Israelites, then drowned all of Pharaoh’s armies there, the power of Egypt was crushed, and the fear of God spread through the surrounding nations (Joshua 2:9–11).

This was the very purpose that God had declared at the beginning.

We can still look back on these events today to confirm our faith in, and our fear of, this true and living God, the Judge of all the earth.

[From “Got Questions” website]

Read Exodus 9

9:1 In chapter 9, this was the fifth time God sent Moses back to Pharaoh with the demand “Let my people go.”

By this time, Moses may have been tired and discouraged, but he continued to obey.

Do you find yourself facing the same difficult conflict again and again?

Don’t give up when you know what is right to do.

As Moses discovered, persistence is rewarded.

9:12 God gave Pharaoh many opportunities to heed Moses’ warnings.

But finally God seemed to say, “All right, Pharaoh, have it your way,” and Pharaoh’s heart became permanently hardened.

Did God intentionally harden Pharaoh’s heart and overrule his free will?

No, he simply confirmed that Pharaoh freely chose a life of resisting God.

Similarly, after a lifetime of resisting God, you may find it impossible to turn to him.

Don’t wait until “just the right time” before turning to God.

Do it now while you still have the chance. If you continually ignore God’s voice, eventually you will be unable to hear it at all.

What are some ways your pride has kept you from God?

Has it ever ruined you?

Acknowledge your bent toward independence, and ask the Lord to rid you of your self-reliance.

Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)

Tuesday, August 30
Israel Bible Center

Did God Harden Pharaoh’s Heart?…

“But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and he did not heed them, just as the Lord had spoken to Moses.”
— Exodus 9:12


When Pharaoh refuses to release God’s people from slavery, most English translations say that “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen” to Moses’ demand for freedom.

The Hebrew for “hardened” here is חזק (hazaq) and “heart” is לב (lev).

When readers see that the Lord “hardened Pharaoh’s heart, it sounds like Pharaoh would let the Israelites go, but God stops him by overriding his autonomy.

A Hebrew Difference

However, hazaq literally means to “strengthen,” and along with “heart,” lev can also mean “desire” or “will.”

Thus, an equally valid translation is that “the Lord strengthened Pharaoh’s will.”

Do you see the difference here?

It does not mean that God forced him to do something against his will, but just the opposite:

it was already Pharaoh’s will to keep the Israelites enslaved, so God strengthened the pharaonic will that was already there.

Pharaoh and Free Will

If you’ll forgive a somewhat crude analogy, there’s a well-known story of parents catching their teenager smoking.

Instead of taking the cigarettes away, the parents say, “So you want to smoke cigarettes, do you?

Well now we’re going to make you go through the entire pack!”

The parental logic here is that the teenager would get so sick that he or she would never want another cigarette again!

While I don’t recommend this method for parenting teenagers, it works as an analogy because this is essentially what God does to Pharaoh:

God says, “So you refuse to let my people go? Ok, then I’m going to reinforce your stubborn will and watch you go through an entire pack of plagues.”

The Lord doesn’t take away Pharaoh’s free will when he refuses to let the people go; rather, God reinforces or strengthens that will.

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Repent or perish…

The Importance of Repentance (13:1–9)…

13:1–3 Chapter 12 closed with the failure of the Jewish nation to discern the time in which they lived, and with the Lord’s warning to repent quickly or perish forever.

Chapter 13 continues this general subject, and is largely addressed to Israel as a nation, although the principles apply to individual people.

Two national calamities form the basis of the resulting conversation.

The first was the massacre of some Galileans who had come to Jerusalem to worship.

Pilate, the governor of Judea, had ordered them to be slain while they were offering sacrifices.

Nothing else is known concerning this atrocity.

We assume the victims were Jews who had been living in Galilee.

The Jews in Jerusalem might have been laboring under the delusion that these Galileans must have committed terrible sins, and that their death was an evidence of God’s disfavor.

However, the Lord Jesus corrected this by warning the Jewish people that unless they repented, they would all likewise perish.

13:4, 5 The other tragedy concerned the collapse of a tower in Siloam which caused the death of eighteen persons.

Nothing else is known about this accident except what is recorded here.

Fortunately, it is not necessary to know any further details. The point emphasized by the Lord was that this catastrophe should not be interpreted as a special judgment for gross wickedness.

Rather, it should be seen as a warning to all the nation of Israel that unless they repented, a similar doom would come upon them.

This doom came to pass in A.D. 70 when Titus invaded Jerusalem.

Max Lucado’s Life Lessons…

Luke 13:1–35

Many Jews believed that good fortune, health, and wealth were signs of God’s approval and that hardships or tragedies were signs of God’s judgment.

When others experience hardship, it is easy to judge them.

Jesus taught that the best response is compassion.

May I get specific for a moment? May I talk about sin?

Dare I remind you and me that our past is laced with outbursts of anger, stained with nights of godless passion, and spotted with undiluted greed?

Suppose your past was made public?

Suppose you were to stand on a stage while a film of every secret and selfish second was projected on the screen behind you?

Would you not crawl beneath the rug? Would you not scream for the heavens to have mercy?

And would you not feel just a fraction . . . just a fraction of what Christ felt on the Cross?

The icy displeasure of a sin-hating God? . . . Christ carried all our sins in His body . . . See Christ on the Cross?

That’s a gossiper hanging there. See Jesus? Embezzler. Liar. Bigot.

See the crucified carpenter? He’s a wife beater. Porn addict and murderer.

See Bethlehem’s boy? Call Him by His other names—Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and Jeffrey Dahmer.

Hold it, Max. Don’t you lump Christ with those evildoers. Don’t you place His name in the same sentence with theirs!

I didn’t. He did.

Indeed He did more. More than place His name in the same sentence, He placed Himself in their place.

And yours.

With hands nailed open, He invited God, “Treat Me as you would treat them!”

And God did. In an act that broke the heart of the Father, yet honored the holiness of heaven, sinpurging judgment flowed over the sinless Son of the ages.

And heaven gave earth her finest gift. The Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.
(From Next Door Savior by Max Lucado)

Don’t fool yourself by thinking that sins will be ignored. Confess your sins today, and enjoy the freedom that God wants for you. Jesus paid the price.

Sunday, August 28
The Berean
Daily Verse and Comment:

Luke 13:1-5
New King James Version

Repent or Perish
1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?

3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?

5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus took advantage of two local tragedies to make the point that, in a major way, all sins and all sinners are equal.

The incident of the collapsed tower was in all likelihood a time-and-chance accident.

However, Jesus alluded to those who died as being sinners, and He implied that those in His audience were also sinners who deserved to die—and would, unless they repented.

What is interesting is a possible reason why Jesus responded as He did to their report of Pilate’s action.

He seems to have detected in their attitude that they thought that those killed by Pilate deserved to die!

The victims were sinners who “got what was coming to them,” implying that they themselves were righteous.

Jesus’ replies that they were just as guilty as those who died!

Someone’s sudden and violent death is not proof that he is particularly more wicked than others.

Jesus’ point is that, while it is not our responsibility to judge the degree of sinfulness of those who die suddenly and violently, it presents us with a golden opportunity to meditate on the state of our character and standing before God.

We may be in just as much danger as those we regard as being very wicked!

We live in a world that is given to extremes of judgment.

One extreme is to call victims of a random tragedy “innocent,” when the Bible shows no such human being exists.

They are only innocent of causing the calamity that brought about the sudden end of their life.

The other extreme is that human nature has a propensity to judge that those killed in such a circumstance were in reality great and wicked sinners who got what they deserved.

This suggests that those making this determination are in good standing with God.

Ours is a topsy-turvy world. We desire with all our being for things to go “right.”

We want good to be rewarded and evil to be punished. But we find in places like Psalms 37 and 73 that evil men often prosper, live in peace in lovely homes, wear fine clothing, are surrounded by their families, receive acclaim and honors within the community, and die at a good old age.

Conversely, the righteous suffer afflictions, are unappreciated, persecuted, demeaned, dishonored, reviled, scattered, and perhaps even cut off in the prime of life!

Some things involving life, judgment, and the out-working of God’s purpose are simply beyond our knowing.

We also have a very difficult time correctly judging the intent of another person’s heart. Thus, God cautions us to be careful.

But He expects us to be able to judge the intent of our own heart correctly.

We should know what is going on inside.

So often, though, even in this we allow ourselves to deny the evil of our own motivations.

We proudly justify ourselves by thinking, “God won’t mind.

It’s just a ‘little’ sin that won’t hurt anybody. And, besides, I need to do this.”

Is there really innocence in this kind of thinking?
— John W. Ritenbaugh

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God is our ever present help in times of trouble…

In times of trouble turn to God’s Word…

We often can gain encouragement and find direction from the Psalms.

The Bible tells us that David was a man after “God’s Own Heart” and yet there were many times in his life when he found himself being tried and crushed in The Crucible of life, with problems on every side and with no seeming way of Escape, yet God was always faithful and always made a way of Escape, even when there didn’t appear to be one!

Only God can save His people, not only from their sins, but He also gives us wisdom and direction through our trials and truthulations – the many testings that we face in life that come to prove the mettle of our faith and make us strong as well.

Romans 5:1-5
J.B. Phillips New Testament

Faith means the certainty of God’s love, now and hereafter

1-2 Since then it is by faith that we are justified, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Through Him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things He has for us in the future.

3-5 This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles.

Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us.

Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us.”

It’s only as we learn to face our fears, instead of running from them, that our Faith muscles get stretched, by pressing against the resistance of life, by hanging on to God’s promises and applying His direction, and in the process putting on the mind of Christ (Php 2:5).

Mind you the Bible says even of Jesus that He learned obedience through the things He suffered (Heb 5:8).

When surrounded by troubles, believers should call upon God for deliverance, trusting that He will rescue them out of their distresses.

Psalm 56 is such a song of trust, one in which David prayed to God to save him when he was under attack by enemies.

The historical background is an incident in David’s life when he fled from Saul to Gath, the hometown of Goliath.

In Gath he took up temporary residence among the Philistines (1 Sam. 21:10-15), only to escape to the cave of Adullam when hunted by his foes (1 Sam. 22).

The enemies in this psalm were not the Philistines but Saul and his men who dogged his steps in an attempt to take David’s life.

Understanding this, David’s first reaction was to be fearful (vv. 3-4,11). But through it all, David put his trust in the Lord, who prevailed on his behalf.

According to the psalm’s title, it was to be sung according to a tune commonly known as “A Dove on Distant Oaks.”

It was a bitter pill for David to have to seek refuge from his own countrymen among the Philistines in Gath, but the fierce hostility of King Saul drove him to it—or so he felt.

Psalm 56 describes some of the alternating waves of fear and faith which swept over him at that time.

Read Psalm 56

56:1-13 This was probably written on the same occasion as Psalm 34, when David fled from Saul to Philistine territory. He had to pretend to be insane before Achish when some servants grew suspicious of him (1 Samuel 21:10-15).

56:3-4 David stated, “What can mere mortals do to me?” How much harm can people do to us?

They can inflict pain, suffering, and death. But no person can rob us of our souls or the future beyond this life.

How much harm can we do to ourselves? The worst thing we can do is to reject God and lose a future with Him in eternity.

Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul” (Matthew 10:28).

Instead, we should fear God, who controls this life and the next.

56:8 No matter what our sorrows are, God cares! Jesus reminded us further of how much God understands us—he knows even the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30).

Often we waver between faith and fear. When you feel so discouraged that you are sure no one understands, remember that God knows every problem and sees every tear.

56:9-11 Fear can paralyze us from taking action. It can even cause physical problems.

And what could be more fearful than an enemy pressing in from all sides?

Faced with this situation, David suggested several antidotes for fear:

(1) Remember that God is always by your side,

(2) Trust Him to help you, and

(3) Praise Him for fulfilling His promises in the past.

This will give you confidence that God will continue to fulfill His promises to give you inner peace and ultimate rescue.

When faced with persecution, insecurity, or insurmountable odds, use these methods to overcome your fear.

56:13 In God’s presence we experience life and light. When God gives life to us, we have no need to fear stumbling or death.

God’s light illuminates the journey and helps guide us in our decisions. We have the freedom to remain steady in His presence.

Max Lucado’s Life Lessons…

Psalms 56:1—57:11

David wrote Psalm 56 when the Philistines captured him in Gath (1 Samuel 21:10–15).

He wrote Psalm 57 while hiding in a cave.

God is trustworthy. He is a rock, a hiding place, a fortress. We have safety and comfort in Him.

Can you relate to David’s story? Has your Saul cut you off from the position you had and the people you love?

In an effort to land on your feet, have you stretched the truth? Distorted the facts? Are you seeking refuge in Gath?

Under normal circumstances you would never go there. But these aren’t normal circumstances, so you loiter in the breeding ground of giants.

The hometown of trouble. Her arms or that bar.

You walk shady streets and frequent questionable places. And, while there, you go crazy.

So the crowd will accept you, so the stress won’t kill you, you go wild.

You wake up in a Dead Sea cave, in the grottoes of Adullam, at the lowest point of your life, feeling as dumb as a roomful of anvils.

You stare out at an arid, harsh, unpeopled future and ask,

“What do I do now?”

I suggest you let David be your teacher. Sure, he goes wacko for a few verses. But in the cave of Adullam, he gathers himself.

The faithful shepherd boy surfaces again.

The giant-killer rediscovers courage.

Yes, he has a price on his head. Yes, he has no place to lay his head, but somehow he keeps his head.

He returns his focus to God and finds refuge.

“Refuge” surfaces as a favorite word of David’s.

Circle its appearances in the Book of Psalms, and you’ll count as many as forty-plus appearances in some versions.

But never did David use the word more poignantly than in Psalm 57.

The introduction to the passage explains its background: “A Michtam of David when he fled from Saul into the cave.”

Envision Jesse’s son in the dimness: on his knees, perhaps on his face, lost in shadows and thought.

He has nowhere to turn.

Go home, he endangers his family; to the tabernacle, he imperils the priests.

Saul will kill him; Gath won’t take him.

He lied in the sanctuary and went crazy with the Philistines, and here he sits.

All alone. But then he remembers: he’s not. He’s not alone.

And from the recesses of the cave a sweet voice floats: “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!

For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by” (v. 1).
(From Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado)

Christians will be persecuted. In what ways are you persecuted? Who opposes you? When life gets hard, look to your refuge—God.

Friday, August 26
God Calling
by Two Listeners


In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.
— Psalm 56:11

Trials and troubles may seem to overwhelm you. They cannot do more than work My Will, and that Will you have said is your Will.

Do you not see that you cannot be destroyed?

From now a new Life is opening out before you. Yours to enter into the Kingdom I have prepared for you.

The sunlight of My Presence is on your paths. Trust and go forward unafraid. My Grace is sufficient for all your needs.

Now unto Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25)

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God commands that we forsake our idols and that we should follow and obey Him…

Aaron’s Sin…

Exodus 32-34 is an interlude between the blueprints of the tabernacle and the actual building process.

Aaron, Moses’ brother, falls into idolatry and orders the making of a golden calf, representative of an old pagan god from Egypt.

This is a flagrant violation of God’s commandments.

When Moses becomes aware of this, he throws the tablets containing the Ten Commandments to the ground and burns the false god.

Now Moses becomes more than the voice of God to the people; he becomes the voice to God on behalf of His followers.

Is God Listening?

Have you ever wondered if God listens to your prayers?

Have you sometimes felt like it’s a waste of time, that the heavens are closed to your petitions?

Consider this: When Franklin Roosevelt was President of the United States, he often endured long receiving lines at the White House.

He complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said.

One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment.

To each person who came down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.”

The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous!” “Keep up the good work.”

“We are proud of you.” “God bless you, sir.”

It was not until the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard.

Bewildered, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.”

I wonder how many times I have looked toward the heavens and wondered, “Lord, do you care?

Are you too busy for me right now?

Why do I sense that I am getting a busy signal right now?”

Despite how you feel or what you might think, please be assured that God is listening.

This is a truth that Moses knew and deeply counted on.

Remember, chapters 25-31 allowed us to view the blueprint of the tabernacle when God presented the plans to Moses.

Later in chapters 35-40, we enjoyed a study of the building process itself.

But now we look at a parenthetical series of chapters (32-34), where some of the saddest moments in Israel’s history are revealed.

In this tragic situation, Moses became more than a leader; he became an intercessor for his people, knowing God would listen.

The Lord shows His erring people the way to His presence by once again giving them his law.

Exodus 32

The Golden Calf (32:1–10)

Impatient at Moses’ delay in returning to them, the people asked Aaron to make an idol for them.

He meekly complied by converting their golden earrings into a golden molded calf, an act that was expressly forbidden (Ex. 20:4).

Then they broke out in revelry, worshiping the idol and eating, drinking, and playing immorally.

They professed to be worshiping the LORD (v. 5), but by means of the calf.

God had blessed His people with gold when they left Egypt (12:35, 36), but the blessing turned into a curse through the sinful hearts of the people.

God informed Moses what was going on at the foot of the mountain (vv. 7, 8) and threatened to destroy this people (vv. 9, 10).

Even though the Israelites had seen the invisible God in action, they still wanted the familiar gods they could see and shape into whatever image they desired.

How much like them we are!

Our great temptation is still to shape God to our liking, to make Him convenient to obey or ignore.

God responds in great anger when His mercy is trampled on.

The gods we create blind us to the love our loving God wants to shower on us.

God cannot work in us when we elevate anyone or anything above Him.

What false gods in your life are preventing the true God from living in you?

There were two popular Egyptian gods, Hapi and Hathor, who were thought of as a bull and a heifer.

The Canaanites who lived in the Promised Land worshiped Baal, thought of as a bull.

Baal was their sacred symbol of power and fertility and was closely connected to immoral sexual practices.

No doubt the Israelites, fresh from Egypt, found it quite natural to make a gold calf to represent the God who had just delivered them from their oppressors.

They may have even thought they were worshiping God himself.

In any case, they were weary of a god without a face. But in doing this, they were ignoring the command God had just given them:

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind” (20:4).

Their apparent sincerity was no substitute for obedience or excuse for disobedience.

Aaron gave in to the demands of the people. He did not defend Moses, remain faithful to God, or protect the people and do what was best for them.

He crumbled under pressure.

Even if we do not make idols, we are often guilty of trying to make God in our image, molding Him to fit our expectations, desires, and circumstances.

When we do this, we end up elevating ourselves rather than the God who created us—and self-worship today, just as in the Israelites’ time, leads to all kinds of immorality.

What is your concept, or image, of God?

Is it biblical? Is it adequate?

Do you need to destroy that image in order to worship the immeasurably powerful God who delivered you from bondage to sin?

God was ready to destroy the whole nation because of their sin.

But Moses pleaded for mercy, and God spared them.

This is one of the countless examples in the Bible of God’s mercy.

Although we deserve His anger, He is willing to forgive and restore us to Himself.

We can receive God’s forgiveness from sin by asking Him for it.

Also, like Moses, we can pray that He will forgive others and use us to bring them the message of His mercy.

Max Lucado’s Life Lessons…

Exodus 31:1—32:35

The people began to fear that Moses would not come down from the mountain, that they had lost their leader, that they would die in the wilderness.

So they asked Aaron to fashion an idol for them.

Fear can lead people to do things they know are wrong, things they know they shouldn’t do.

“I look at this people—oh! what a stubborn, hardheaded people!” (Exodus 32:9 MSG).

God spoke these words to Moses on Mount Sinai.

The disloyalty of the calf-worshiping Hebrews stunned God.

He had given them a mayor’s-seat perch at His Exodus extravaganza.

They saw water transform into blood, high noon change to a midnight sky, the Red Sea turn into a red carpet, and the Egyptian army become fish bait.

God gave manna with the morning dew, quail with the evening sun.

He earned their trust. The former slaves had witnessed a millennium of miracles in a matter of days. And yet, when God called Moses to a summit meeting, the people panicked like henless chicks. “They rallied around Aaron and said, ‘Do something.

Make gods for us who will lead us.

That Moses, the man who got us out of Egypt—who knows what’s happened to him?’” (Exodus 32:1 MSG).

The scurvy of fear infected everyone in the camp. They crafted a metal cow and talked to it.

God, shocked at the calf-praising service, commanded Moses, “Go! Get down there! . . . They’ve turned away from the way I commanded them. . . . Oh! what a stubborn, hard-headed people!” (vv. 7–9 MSG). . . . Our hearts harden in an unhealthy reaction to fear.

Note: the presence of fear in the Hebrews didn’t bother God; their response to it did.

Nothing persuaded the people to trust Him.

Plagues didn’t. Liberation from slavery didn’t.

God shed light on their path and dropped food in their laps, and still they didn’t believe Him.

Nothing penetrated their hearts.

They were flinty. Stiff.

Mount Rushmore is more pliable, an anvil more tender.

The people were as responsive as the gold statue they worshiped.

More than three thousand years removed, we understand God’s frustration.

Turn to a statue for help? How stupid.

Face your fears by facing a cow? Udderly foolish!

We opt for more sophisticated therapies: belly-stretching food binges or budget-busting shopping sprees.

We bow before a whiskey bottle or lose ourselves in an eighty-hour work week.

Progress? Hardly. We still face fears without facing God.
(From 3:16 by Max Lucado)

Are you dealing with fears in unhealthy, unhelpful, even sinful ways?

God says turn away from that and look to Him.

Thursday, August 25
The Berean
Daily Verse and Comment

Exodus 32:7-10
New King James Version

7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.

8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them.

They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ ”

9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!

10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”

These people were undoubtedly sincere, but God did not care for their sincerity one bit. Why? God saw this as an attempt by these people to control Him through redefining His nature.

When we turn aside from the path, whether we realize it or not, we are beginning to redefine what He is according to our own thinking.

If we think this is not a prevalent sin, Jesus says in Mark 7:7,

“In vain do you worship Me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

He is not saying that these people are insincere, but that they have failed to follow the way of God.

Like these Israelites, they proclaim their religion in the name of God though.

Jesus also says in Luke 6:46,

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not the things that I say?”

That is what they were doing in Exodus 32.

What was their motivation? Does this have an end-time application to the church of God?

The answer is in verse 1:

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him,

“Come make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

Moses, the charismatic leader, the type of Jesus Christ, delayed his coming!

That is alarming! What motivated Saul to make the sacrifice in I Samuel 13?

Because Samuel’s coming was delayed,

Saul presumptuously took it into his own hands to do something he had not been commanded to do—to make the sacrifice.

The problem was the delay he perceived.

Do we understand why Christ says,

“Do not say in your heart, ‘The Lord delays His coming'”?

He knows from the experiences from the Old Testament that, if we begin to think that Christ is delaying, then we will turn aside to idolatry because we will use it as a justification for adjusting ourselves to the spirit of the times we live in.

This has alarming ramifications.

What did the Israelites do here?

Redefining the nature of God is merely the sin that led to them adjusting their lifestyle, to fall into idolatry.

Will that be a problem for this generation?

Are we going to think that Christ is delaying His coming?

Sincerity is good, but truth is needed with it.

Jesus says in John 4:24 that God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.

We need to examine ourselves to see whether we are making adjustments in our way of life to be in harmony with the spirit of the age.

Do we keep Sabbath just like the world keeps Sunday?

If we do, we have adjusted already.

Are we careful in tithing? Are we concerned God will not come through with prosperity?

If so, we are already beginning to make adjustments. Who is the idol? We are.

We change the image of God by saying, “He won’t mind. He understands.”

He does understand, but He wants us to trust Him. He knows we are under pressure, but He knows we need to learn to do without, to suffer, to wait. Do we believe that?
— John W. Ritenbaugh

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The importance of intercessory prayer…

Until intercessors learn to use their authority they’ll never be redeemed of Satan’s power…

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”
(James 5:16b)

Our prayers are making a difference and they will continue to make a difference, as long as we persist and press through.

Luke 11:9 (AMPC)
Jesus speaking: “So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you.”

In other words we are to PUSH which is an acronym for Pray Until Something Happens.

We as intercessors are the advanced air support that goes in first, neutralizing the principalities, powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places. (Eph 6:12); and so our prayers soften the enemy targets ahead of the ground troops, which ultimately includes the missionaries that are now able to go in and spread the Good News of the Gospel on a level playing field.

George Mueller said this about the importance our getting our heads on right in the battle:

“I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.

The first thing to be concerned about was not, how I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished.

I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation of it.”

And Paul, in the Bible, gives us the scriptural protocol on how to do this, in order that we may go into the battle of life covered in God’s Shalom-peace.

Philippians 4:4-7
Amplified Bible, Classic Edition

4 Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!

5 Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit).

The Lord is near [He is coming soon].

6 Do not fret or have any anxiety about ANYTHING, but in EVERY circumstance and in EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.

7 And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing NOTHING from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends ALL understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

“Keep your spiritual life calm and unruffled. Nothing else matters.


Your main task is to get calm in My presence, to not let one upset feeling remain for even a single moment.

Allowing such a feeling to stay for one second may block years of blessings.

No matter who or what worries you, your task is to stop whatever you are doing until absolute calm comes.

Any interference in your calm is a blockage which prevents you from being an open channel through which My power can flow.”

(From “God Calling,” by Two Listeners)

Charles Spurgeon said about prayer:

“Prayer moves the arm that moves the world.”

“God has of his own motion placed himself under the law of prayer, and has obligated himself to answer the prayers of men.

He has ordained prayer as a means whereby he will do things through men as they pray, which he would not otherwise do.

If prayer puts God to work on earth, then, by the same token, prayerlessness rules God out of the world’s affairs, and prevents him from working.

The driving power, the conquering force in God’s cause is God himself.

‘Call on me and I will answer thee and who thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not,’ is God’s challenge to prayer.

Prayer puts God in full force into God’s work.”

[E.M. Bounds “The Weapon of Prayer” Chap. 2]

Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)

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Hillbilly Wisdom…

I love this…

The main lesson of life is don’t over complicate it. Slow down and take the time to smell the roses.

In the midst of the storms circling your life, follow the advice of Psalm 46, with emphasis on verse 10:

“Be still and know that I AM (that I AM) is still God” over every area of your life!

And read also Hebrews 4:11 (AMP)…

“Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves], so that no one will fall by following the same example of disobedience [as those who died in the wilderness]..”

Remember also what Proverbs 15:15 says (in the Amplified Bible):

“All the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances].”

𝐎𝐥𝐝 𝐇𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐛𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐖𝐢𝐬𝐝𝐨𝐦:

Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.

Keep skunks, bankers, and politicians at a distance.

Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.

A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.

Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled.

The best sermons are lived, not preached.

If you don’t take the time to do it right, you’ll find the time to do it twice.

Don’t corner something that is meaner than you.

It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.

You cannot unsay a cruel word.

Every path has a few puddles.

When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.

Borrowing trouble from the future doesn’t deplete the supply.

Most of the stuff people worry about ain’t never gonna happen anyway.

Don’t judge folks by their relatives.

Silence is sometimes the best answer.

Don‘t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t botherin’ you none.

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.

Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.

The biggest troublemaker you’ll ever have to deal with watches you from the mirror every mornin’.

Always drink upstream from the herd.

Good judgment comes from experience, and most of that comes from bad judgment.

Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.

If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.

Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.

Most times, it just gets down to common sense.

Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)

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The Throne Room of Heaven…

Revelation 4 starts out by describing the throne room scene in heaven…

John says “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”


Why is it that the angels of heaven, gathered around the throne of God, are completely overcome, so much so that they never stop worshiping the Lord.

Why do they never cease glorifying the One seated?

Why is it the hosts of heaven incessantly cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, the whole earth is full of His glory?”

Why is it in the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation, that John who witnesses this open heaven, is stunned by what He sees?

Why is it that the 24 elders mentioned in the 4th chapter of Revelation, keep falling down before the glory of the One sitting upon the throne?

Why is it that in chapter five of Revelation, myriads upon myriads, thousands upon thousands, untold millions, keep crying out, over and over,

“Worthy is the Lamb. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory, forever and ever?”

This is the reason. The host of heaven and all who are there, are beholding in blazing and indescribable majesty, the wonder, and transcendent beauty of the Living God. And what they see utterly and completely fascinates them.

How you view God, how you see God, what you think about God, is the single most important aspect of your life.

May God give each one of us the eyes of angels that we might behold God in all His beauty.

I once heard a preacher describe what we read in Revelation about the glory around the throne of God, with everybody bowing down and worshiping Him unceasingly.

He talked about how we all have seen things in God’s creation that are so beautiful that just to view it literally took our breath away.

He described the throne room of Heaven with God sitting on His throne like viewing the many facets of a diamond.

Where every second you are seeing a new facet of the beauty, majesty and Glory of God that literally takes your breath away and causes you to break out in worship to your Creator.

Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)

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The importance of our Keeping the Faith and rightly dividing the Word of Truth…

Introducing Paul’s first epistle to Timothy…

Guard the Faith and stay clear of false teachers…

1 Timothy 6:20-21

20 O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge—21 by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.

Paul declares his reason for writing to Timothy right at the beginning of his letter...

After a customary greeting Paul writes:

“. . . stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false [or, other] doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. (1 Timothy 1:3-4a)

False teachers have always blemished the church. The false teachers in the Ephesian church did not believe Jesus was really human.

They contradicted Scripture while appearing to be self-disciplined and morally righteous.

Paul was concerned because “the pure and sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5) he had brought to Ephesus was being corrupted.

Men and women within the Ephesian church were teaching and spreading doctrines that were different from Paul’s teaching, and so he wrote to Timothy—who was ministering in Ephesus at that time—and advised him about these people and their doctrines.

Paul gives an even sterner warning in his letter to the Galatian church, when he says,

“But even if we or an angel out of heaven should preach a gospel to you contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let him be accursed!” (Galatians 1:8)

In chapter 6, verse 20 we come to Paul’s final exhortation to Timothy.

He is encouraged to guard what was committed to him.

This probably refers to the true doctrines of the Christian faith.

It is not here a question of Timothy’s soul or of his salvation, but rather of the truth of the gospel of the grace of God.

Like money deposited in a bank, the truth entrusted to Timothy was to be preserved “entire and whole and unharmed.”

He is to avoid the profane and idle babble and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge.

Idle babble or chatter is empty talk about matters which are not profitable.

Paul realized that Timothy would encounter a great deal of teaching which posed as true knowledge but which was actually opposed to the Christian revelation.

Bishop Moule writes: The Gnostics of Paul’s day claimed to lead their disciples “past the common herd of mere believers to a superior and gifted circle who should know the mysteries of being, and who by such knowing should live emancipated from the slavery of matter, ranging at liberty in the world of spirit.”

From all such Timothy should turn away.

This would refer, in our day, first of all to false cults, such as “Christian Science.”

This system claims to be Christian in character and also claims to have true knowledge, but it is falsely so-called.

It is neither Christian nor science!

This verse may also be applied to many forms of natural science, as taught in our schools today.

Actually, no true finding of science will ever contradict the Bible, because the secrets of science were placed in the universe by the same One who wrote the Bible, God Himself.

But many so-called facts of science are in reality nothing but unproven theories.

Any such hypotheses which contradict the Bible should be rejected.

6:21 Paul realized that some professed Christians had been taken up with these false teachings and had strayed concerning the faith.

Paul here issued a personal plea to Timothy: guard what has been entrusted to your care.

This is no light matter. The gospel and doctrine, as given by the apostles, must be defended and preserved.

Timothy had been equipped by God to do this; now he must set his heart and mind to the task.

The work was entrusted to him, just as valuables are deposited in a bank for safety.

Timothy was handed the responsibility of guarding the riches of the gospel against false teachers and keeping the church unified in the face of divisive teachings.

In order to carry out this work, Timothy must turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge.

These are the arrogant views of the false teachers, those who think academic pursuits and tangling with words are, in themselves, pathways to spirituality.

They do not recognize the need for a comprehensive belief that changes the inner person and his behavior.

Such people and their teachings appear wise, but they are actually empty.

These false teachers were not just little irritants which disrupted the church; they were dangerous.

The spurious doctrines which some have professed have caused people to wander from the faith.

This was soul-damaging. Such people appeared as religious teachers, but they were traitorous to the God who created them.

Paul ended as he began: Grace be with you. This was extended not only to Timothy, but to the congregation who listened to this letter and heard all of Paul’s instructions.

For the believers gathered in Ephesus, Paul desired God’s grace, his abundant goodness and spiritual fullness.

We continue as we started in the Christian faith—by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-10).

These closing verses bring before us the great dangers of so-called intellectualism, rationalism, modernism, liberalism, and every other “ism” which disregards or waters down Christ.

Grace be with you. This benediction is Paul’s “trademark,” because only God’s grace can keep His people on the “strait and narrow” way. Amen

The Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed

Christianity is a religion of the Word, the Word that created the world and the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us.

Fidelity to God’s Word consists in part of echoing this Word in our confession of faith.

Indeed, Christian faith is first a gift or grace to be received, not a tool to be wielded.

Submission to a fixed formula regards the givenness of faith. Creeds then hold us accountable to the Word of God; they hold our minds still before the Word so they can be conformed to the truth.

The church fathers formed a council in the first or second century to define Christian Orthodoxy, the first was called the Apostles Creed, which was later influenced by the Nicene Creed.

The earliest historical evidence of the creed’s existence is in a letter written by the Council of Milan in 390 A.D.

The basic tenants of the Christian faith, which must be adhered to and believed to be considered orthodox is as follows.

Any variation or belief systems that compromise or contradict these basic tenants of the Christian faith are considered Cults.

Nicene Creed:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of Life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.

He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic (universal) and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Paul teaches us that we each have a responsibility to rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

The Greek word translated as “rightly dividing” is orthotomounta—ortho means “right or proper,” and tomounta means “to cut.”

Literally, success in handling the Word is to cut it properly or correctly.

This is farming imagery, as a farmer who is plowing a field would seek to cut straight furrows in order to plant rows of seed.

When plowing, a farmer would look at a point on the other side of the field and focus on that point to ensure the line cut in the dirt was straight.

This is what the good student of the Word is doing, as well: remaining focused on the goal or outcome and being diligent to handle the Word of God properly.

To rightly divide the Word of truth is to “cut it straight.”

Ultimately, in studying the Word, we are trying to understand what the Author has said and not allow our own opinions or views to cloud the meaning of what He has written.

When we are diligent to “cut straight”—to rightly divide the Word of truth—we can understand what He has communicated in His Word and be well-equipped for what He would have us to do and how He would have us to think.

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Let us call upon the name of the Lord and seek His face everyday…

The Bible admonishes us to…

“Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.” (Isa 55:6)

To seek God early in life; and to live responsibly in your youth for Old Age and Death are coming for all.

Young people ought to enjoy the youthful season of life but never forget that everything they think and do will be judged by God.

Read Ecclesiastes 12

Solomon here underlined the thought of responsible living in one’s youth by vividly depicting in a series of word pictures the increasing gloom and declining powers of old age which culminate in death.

These word pictures are arranged in three groups, each introduced with “before” (vv. 1-2, 6) and modifying the basic imperative, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (v. 1).

Live responsibly before the miseries of old age come

12:1 A life without God can produce bitterness, loneliness, and hopelessness in old age.

A life centered around God is fulfilling and can be richer and more bearable than one without him if we are faced with disabilities, sickness, or handicaps.

Being young is exciting. But the excitement of youth can become a barrier to closeness with God if it makes young people focus on passing pleasures instead of eternal values.

Make your strength available to God when it is still yours—during your youthful years.

Don’t waste it on evil or meaningless activities that become bad habits and make you callous. Seek God now.

12:6-8 The silver cord, golden bowl, water jar, and pulley symbolize life’s fragility.

How easily death comes to us; how swiftly and unexpectedly we return to the dust from which we came.

Therefore, we should recognize life as a precious resource to be used wisely and not squandered frivolously.

12:7-8 Stripped of the life-giving spirit breathed into us by God, our bodies return to dust.

Stripped of God’s purpose, our work is in vain.

Stripped of God’s love, our service is futile.

We must put God FIRST over ALL we do and in ALL we do because without Him we have nothing.

Knowing that life is futile without God motivates a wise person to seek God first.

12:11 A cattle prod was a wooden rod with a sharp metal tip, which was used to keep cattle moving.

Like a cattle prod, wise words or important truths might be unpleasant when first heard and applied but can be essential for moving us in God’s direction.

12:12 Opinions about life and philosophies about how we should live could be read and studied forever.

It is not wrong to study these opinions, but we should spend most of our time feeding on the truth of God’s Word and putting the wisdom we gain into action.

Wise students of the Bible will understand and do what they are taught. Because our time on earth is so short, we should use it to learn the truths that affect not only this life but also eternity.

12:13-14 In his conclusion, Solomon presents his antidotes for the two main ailments presented in this book.

Those who lack purpose and direction in life should fear God and obey His commands.

Those who think life is unfair should remember that God will review every person’s life to determine how he or she has responded to Him, and He will judge every deed.

Have you committed your life—your present and your future—to God?

Does your life measure up to His standards?

12:13-14 The book of Ecclesiastes cannot be interpreted correctly without reading these final verses.

No matter what the mysteries and apparent contradictions of life are, we must work toward the single purpose of knowing God.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon shows us that we should enjoy life but that this does not exempt us from obeying God’s commands.

We should search for purpose and meaning in life, but these cannot be found in human endeavors.

We should acknowledge the evil, foolishness, and injustice in life yet maintain a positive attitude and strong faith in God.

All people will have to stand before God and be judged for what they did in this life.

We will not be able to use life’s inconsistencies as an excuse for failing to live as God wants.

To live as God wants, we need to…

(1) recognize that human effort apart from God is futile;

(2) put God first—now;

(3) receive every good thing as a gift from God;

(4) realize that God will judge both evil and good; and

(5) know that God will judge the quality of every person’s life.

How strange that people spend their lives striving for the very enjoyment that God gives freely!

In Isaiah 55:2, God asks the question…

“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.”

Max Lucado’s Life Lessons…

Ecclesiastes 9:1—12:14

Every person must face death. Those who are righteous and wise rest in God’s hands.

Work hard, enjoy what you have in life, and Seek wisdom.

Wisdom provides greater assets than power.

Although you still face death, you can be comforted to know that those who follow God will live forever with Him.

Remarkable. Each morning I climb into a truck that weighs half a ton and take it out on an interstate where I—and a thousand other drivers—turn our vehicles into sixty-mile-per-hour missiles.

Although I’ve had a few scares and mishaps, I still whistle while I drive at a speed that would have caused my great-grandfather to pass out.

Remarkable. Every day I have the honor of sitting down with a book that contains the words of the One who created me.

Every day I have the opportunity to let Him give me a thought or two on how to live.

If I don’t do what He says, He doesn’t burn the book or cancel my subscription.

If I disagree with what He says, lightning doesn’t split my swivel chair or an angel doesn’t mark my name off the holy list.

If I don’t understand what He says, He doesn’t call me a dummy.

In fact, He calls me “Son,” and on a different page explains what I don’t understand.

Remarkable. At the end of the day when I walk through the house, I step into the bedrooms of three little girls.

Their covers are usually kicked off, so I cover them up.

Their hair usually hides their faces, so I brush it back.

And one by one, I bend over and kiss the foreheads of the angels God has loaned me.

Then I stand in the doorway and wonder why in the world He would entrust a stumbling, fumbling fellow like me with the task of loving and leading such treasures.

Remarkable. Then I go and crawl into bed with a woman far wiser than I . . . a woman who deserves a man much better looking than I . . . but a woman who would argue that fact and tell me from the bottom of her heart that I’m the best thing to come down her pike.

After I think about the wife I have, and when I think that I get to be with her for a lifetime, I shake my head and thank the God of grace for grace and think, Remarkable.

In the morning, I’ll do it all again.

I’ll drive down the same road. Go to the same office. Call on the same bank. Kiss the same girls. And crawl into bed with the same woman.

But I’m learning not to take these everyday miracles for granted. . . . I’m discovering many things: traffic jams eventually clear up, sunsets are for free, Little League is a work of art, and most planes take off and arrive on time.

I’m learning that most folks are good folks who are just as timid as I am about starting a conversation. . . . I’m learning that if I look . . . if I open my eyes and observe . . . there are many reasons to take off my hat, look at the source of it all, and just say thanks.
(From In the Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado)

Do you feel like you are falling behind in the rat race?

Do you wonder how you will catch up?

Look at your remarkable blessings, and give God thanks for what you do have.

Come join the Adventure!

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Love Is the Greatest…

The God kind of Love is the source of true power…

Love starts by our loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength…

“Jesus answered, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’”
(Mark 12:29-31)

As Covenant children of God, we are called to be the Distributors of God’s Love and Light into all the dark areas of this world.

What does the God kind of love look like?

For that answer we look to 1 Corinthians 13:

13:1-13 In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul gave evidence of the Corinthians’ lack of love in the utilization of spiritual gifts; 1 Corinthians 13 defines real love, and 1 Corinthians 14 shows how love works.

Love is more important than all the spiritual gifts exercised in the church body—love demonstrates the ultimate purpose of human existence.

God’s love is the reason this world exists and why He wants to spend eternity with us.

We have the wonderful opportunity to love Him in return and love others because we understand how love changes everything for good.

Great faith, acts of dedication or sacrifice, and miracle-working power produce very little without love.

Love makes our actions and gifts useful.

Although people have different gifts, everyone can have a huge amount of love.

13:4-7 Our society confuses love and lust.

Unlike lust, God’s kind of love is directed outward toward others, not inward toward ourselves.

It is utterly unselfish.

This kind of love goes against our natural inclinations.

It is impossible to have this kind of love unless God helps us set aside our own natural desires so that we can love without expecting anything in return.

We can’t manufacture this kind of love when we don’t feel it.

We gain it only through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).

We never love perfectly; only Jesus can.

Thus, the more we become like Christ, the more love we will show to others.

13:5 Paul says that love “is not irritable.”

Sometimes we’re irritated or angered by others, and we don’t know why.

Not all irritability stems from sinful or selfish motives, although the irritable treatment of others is surely wrong.

Much irritability comes from a love of perfection, a deep desire for programs, plans, meetings, and structures to be run perfectly.

A desire to run things perfectly can erupt into anger at those who get in the way or ruin an outcome.

When we get easily irritated, it helps to remember that perfection exists only in God.

We need to love Him and our fellow Christians, not the visions we have for perfection here on earth.

13:7 Before we trivialize these words about love by assuming they can easily fit us, we should pause to consider that they actually describe God’s character.

These are not sugary claims. They are substantial descriptions of the way God perfectly relates to us.

The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write a breathtakingly beautiful description of the nature of God.

Only God can put His character in us and help us love like this.

13:9-12 What if we do a poor job of loving others?

Paul gives us hope:

(1) Right now we have only partial and incomplete knowledge; we can’t do anything perfectly (13:9).

(2) We are immature, like children, in how we love others. As we grow closer to Christ, we will learn to love others better (13:11).

(3) We lack clarity about the right way to love. Like a cloudy mirror, we don’t perfectly reflect Jesus to others (13:12). (For more from Paul on how we are being transformed, see 2 Corinthians 3:16-18.)

13:10-12 When Paul wrote of knowing “everything completely, just as God now knows me completely,” he was referring to when we will see Jesus Christ face-to-face.

God gives believers spiritual gifts for their lives on earth in order to build up, serve, and strengthen fellow Christians so that they can be better encouraged and equipped to share the love of God with the world.

Spiritual gifts are given only to believers.

In eternity, we will be made perfect and complete and will be in the very presence of God.

We will no longer need spiritual gifts, so they will come to an end.

Then, we will have a full understanding and appreciation for one another as unique expressions of God’s infinite creativity.

We will use our differences as a reason to praise God!

Based on that perspective, let us treat each other with the same love and unity that we will one day share.

13:13 Paul wrote that love endures forever.

In morally corrupt Corinth, love had become a mixed-up term with little meaning.

Today, people are still confused about love.

Love is the greatest of all human qualities and is the very essence of God himself (1 John 4:8).

Love involves unselfish service to others.

Faith is the foundation and content of God’s message; hope is the attitude and focus; love is the action.

When faith and hope are in line, we are free to love completely because we understand how God loves.

Does your faith fully express itself in loving others?

“If faith is the substance of things hoped for, as Hebrews 11:1 tells us, it will be superfluous once these things have arrived.

Similarly with hope. But love is greater than these, because when our troubles are over and our bodies have been changed in the resurrection, our minds will be steadied by it, so that they will no longer desire now one thing, now another.”
— Theodoret of Cyrus (5th century Byzantine theologian and bishop)

Max Lucado’s Life Lessons…

1 Corinthians 12:31b—13:13

The Corinthians compared spiritual gifts and ministries. They rated a person’s value to the church by that person’s gifts.

All spiritual gifts are equally valuable to the church. But love is even greater than all of them combined.

I saw a shard of [agape] love between an elderly man and woman who have been married for fifty years.

The last decade has been marred by her dementia. The husband did the best he could to care for his wife at home, but she grew sicker; he, older.

So he admitted her to full-time care.

One day he asked me to visit her, so I did.

Her room was spotless, thanks to his diligence.

She, horizontal on the bed, was bathed and dressed, though going nowhere.

“I arrive at 6:15 a.m.,” he beamed.

“You’d think I was on the payroll. I feed her, bathe her, and stay with her.

I will until one of us dies.”

Agape love.

I know a father who, out of love for his son, spends each night in a recliner, never sleeping more than a couple of consecutive hours.

A car accident paralyzed the teenager. To maintain the boy’s circulation, therapists massage his limbs every few hours.

At night the father takes the place of the therapists.

Though he’s worked all day and will work again the next, he sets the alarm to wake himself every other hour until sunrise. . . .

What is this love that endures decades, passes on sleep, and resists death to give one kiss?

Call it agape love, a love that bears a semblance of God’s.
(From 3:16 by Max Lucado)

Let us read aloud the description of love in chapter 13, stopping after each word that describes love and thinking about what it means.

How would such love look if you were to share it with others in your daily life?

Come join the Adventure!

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