Showing posts with label Exodus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Exodus. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Praying for God to stay close


Background: Wandering in the wilderness between slavery and redemption, the Hebrew people praised God and complained, obeyed God and disobeyed, and showed great faith and lack of faith. When asked to make the Tabernacle or Tent of Meeting and Ark of the Covenant, which held the commandments God had given them through Moses, the people brought so many offerings that they had to be asked to stop giving!

After the elaborate Tabernacle had been completed, the people would stand and watch while Moses entered the tent and the pillar of cloud descended. As the LORD spoke to Moses, his whole countenance would shine with such a glow that he had to cover his face with a veil to keep from scaring the people!

Moses did not see the face of God, but he saw the glory of God when he prayed for the Holy Presence to stay close beside him and the people:

Then Moses said to the LORD, “Now, therefore, I pray that if I have found favor in Your sight, You will show me Your way so I might know You and find grace in Your sight. Remember, too, that this nation is Your people.”

“And God answered, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’

“Then Moses said to God, 'If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from this place. For how will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight unless You go with us? We shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people on the face of the earth.’

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do what you have asked for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.’

“Then Moses prayed, ‘Please show me Your glory.’

“And God said, ‘I will make My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But you cannot see My face for no one can see Me and live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Stand here beside Me in this place on the rock, and when My glory passes by, I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand,”
Exodus 33:13-22.


Questions: In what way has the goodness of God passed before you, enabling you to see, hear, or feel your closeness to the Holy Presence? Have you found a church or synagogue where that Presence lifts you into praise and worship? What does the word of God that came through Moses and the Prophets and other spirit-filled writers mean to you? How would you describe the Glory of God?


Prayer: Dear LORD God and Heavenly Father, as Pentecost approaches, we pray for You to draw close to us and help us to draw close to You. Empower and bless all of Your people with the coming of Your Holy Spirit on this holy day and season of Pentecost.

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© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. If you share this with your church, synagogue, or Bible study group, please let everyone know where to find the site. For other articles and devotionals on Bible topics and various aspects of writing, follow postings on The Word Center or visit Blogs by Mary. Thanks.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Praying in the Wilderness

Background: Empowered by Almighty God, Moses and Aaron rescued the Hebrew people from the power of Pharaoh, leading them out of Egype and into freedom. Pharaoh pursued them into the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds) where he and his army perished while the people of God stayed safe.

Throughout this spiritual battle, God remained faithful to every promise, every word, every warning given to Moses.

God gave the plan of escape.
God provided.
God guided.
God encouraged.
God empowered
God protected.

Then the enormous crowd – perhaps in the millions – found themselves far from the only homes and lives they had known in a desert where all of their gold and precious jewelry did them no good. They were free! Yet they knew nothing of freedom. They were no longer under the protection and power of Pharaoh, but of God. Yet they knew little about the LORD. And they were thirsty.

“For three days, the people traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to an oasis, the water was too bitter to drink, so they called the place Marah (which means ‘bitter.’)

“Then the people turned against Moses, complaining and crying, ‘What are we going to drink?’

“Moses cried out to the LORD for help, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. Moses cast the wood into the water, and the water became sweet and good to drink.

“There at Marah the LORD made a rule and law for the people to live by and to show their loyalty. And God said, ‘If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in God’s sight, obeying the commands and decrees of the LORD, then I will put on you none of the diseases brought onto the Egyptians, for I Am the LORD Who heals you.’

“Then the people traveled on to Elim, which had twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and the people camped near the water,”
Exodus 15:22-27.

Questions: Have you ever had to go three days without water? Would being in the desert make such a trial even more difficult? Did God know where water was? Did God know where the people were? Why do you think the LORD withheld a basic necessity? Is it possible that God was trying to train the people to pray at the first hint of a problem? Did they know to do that? Did Moses? Do we?

Prayer: Dear LORD God, forgive me for complaining about problems instead of immediately turning to You in prayer. Help me to remember Your goodness. Thank You for guiding, encouraging, providing, and protecting me every day.

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© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. If you share this with your Bible study group or anyone else, please let them know where to find this site. For other Bible topics, follow Blogs by Mary. Thanks. And may the LORD God bless every problem with a prayer.

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Friday, April 6, 2012

The Passover in Exodus prefigures the Passover Lamb of Christ

Background and foreground: God and Moses came to an agreement that, yes, he would lead the people out of slavery in Egypt, and, yes, Aaron would help. The two brothers from the Tribe of Levi then told the Hebrew people how God would rescue them, and they believed it, but Pharaoh did not. He said, “Who is God that I should obey? I do not know the LORD,” Exodus 5:2.

So instead of letting the people go as hoped, Pharaoh increased the workload, making brickmaking impossible to do in the time given! When the Hebrews cried out to Moses, Moses cried out to God.

“And Moses said, ‘O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You even send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done nothing but harm everyone, and You have not delivered Your people at all,”
Exodus 5:22-23.

Harsh words! But then it was a cruel time as Pharaoh continued to use a strong hand to force the people into harsh labor. And so God said, “Now you will see what I will do to put Pharaoh under My strong hand until he is forced to let My people go!” Exodus 6:1.

The next few chapters bring on The Plagues! These were not just pesky critters aimlessly getting in Pharaoh’s face though. Each plague battled one of the many gods in which Pharaoh (and, perhaps, the Hebrew people) believed. So this was spiritual warfare! This was combat in heavenly places – combat that had never before been seen with such power and passion as would not be seen again with such strength until the Passion of Christ.

For each skirmish with the gods of Pharaoh, God told Moses and Aaron exactly what to expect and what to do, and they obeyed. During the plagues, Pharaoh repented and asked Moses to intercede for him in prayer, which Moses did, but the Egyptian ruler still did not let the people go!

The Egyptian people, however, were more than ready for the Hebrews to leave! So just as God said would happen, they gave the Israelites more than enough clothing, gold, and other supplies to hurry them along in their travels.

Before the last plague showed God’s power over life and death, the LORD told Moses and Aaron to prepare a Passover lamb with bitter herbs and unleavened bread to eat in haste. They were also to use blood drained from the lamb to paint the frames of their doors.

And God said, “This is the LORD’S Passover for I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments for I am the LORD. And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live, and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you or destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. And this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD. Throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as an ordinance forever,” Exodus 12:11-15.

Questions: But, what about today? Does this ordinance remain in effect? Did Jesus celebrate Passover? Do we?

“And on the first day of the (seven-day) Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for You to eat the Passover?’ ” Matthew 26:17.

Jesus told the disciples exactly what to expect and what to do, and they found everything just as he said.

“And as they were eating the Passover meal, Jesus took the unleavened bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat. This is my body.’ Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins,” Matthew 26:26-28.

Jesus became the bread and wine for the Passover Feast that Christians celebrate as the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus became the sacrificial Passover Lamb whose blood covers the doorframe.

Jesus the Christ became the Door through which we safely go, between life and death, between heaven and earth.


Prayer: Praise You Heavenly Father for loving us so much you gave Your Firstborn Son as our Passover Lamb. Praise You, God, for Your power, forgiveness, strength, and love forever.

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© 2012, Mary Sayler, all rights reserved. If you share this with your church, synagogue, or Bible study group, please let everyone know where to find the site. Thanks, and may God bless our Passover Feast each day of this Holy Week.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Moses: Bible Model for talking with God

As Christians and Jews enter Holy Week leading to Passover and Easter, the conversations between God and Moses in Exodus give us some of our best and blessed examples of Bible prayers – especially conversational prayer.

In Exodus 3, God initiates prayer-talks that continue throughout this second book of the Torah. Instead of posting those pages, I’ll summarize highlights found in chapters 3 and 4 but encourage you to read all of Exodus this week to see what you notice too:

Exodus 3:
• God gets Moses attention with a Burning Bush.
• Moses takes the time to stop and see what's happening.
• God calls Moses by name.
• Moses immediately responds.
• God establishes a relationship with Moses by identifying with his forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
• Moses expresses fear.
• God immediately lets Moses know that the LORD is aware of the suffering of the Hebrew people and has called Moses to lead them.
• Moses does not ask who God is, but asks, “Who am I to lead?” (Exodus 3:11)
• God reassures Moses that God will be with him.
• Now Moses asks God Who God Is.
• God says, “I AM Who I Am,” (Exodus 3:14.)
• God also gives Moses a job description of what to expect and what to say.

Exodus 4:
• Moses worries that people will not believe him or respond.
• God gives Moses signs and powers that would get anyone’s attention!
• Moses gives God excuses!
• God again reassures Moses that God will be with him.
• Moses asks God to please get somebody else for the job!
• God gets annoyed yet provides someone else to help – Moses' brother Aaron.


Questions: From his early childhood, Moses lived with Pharaoh’s daughter, so he might not have been too confident about speaking Hebrew! What other occurrences could have made him hesitate to take on the task God gave him? Does lack of confidence in your God-given talents, experiences, or ability ever get in the way of the work you feel led to do?

Prayer: LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and me, thank You for providing everything needed to do the work that You have given. Help me to be clear about what that is! Help me also to stay focused and close to You in prayer. Praise You, LORD, for the reassurance, encouragement, human help, and heavenly power needed for the task at hand, and thank You for helping us to overhear Your patient, lively, and loving conversations with Moses.

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© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. If you can use these articles in your Bible study group in your church or synagogue, just let everyone know where to find this site. For articles on a variety of topics, see Blogs by Mary.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

God calls Moses to answer the prayers of the people

Background: In Egypt the Hebrew people groaned to God, praying for a savior from slavery. They did not know that God had been preparing Moses for that job ever since his birth. But then, neither did Moses!

From the start, Moses knew the love of godly parents in a godly home. In early childhood, he learned how to get around the palace of his adoptive grandfather, Pharaoh. He learned of the important political and cultural events in Egypt and experienced the academic excellence available to him as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter.

Moses had surely seen how leaders lead, too, and, during his years of exile, he learned, as a shepherd, how to get wayward, frightened sheep to follow him through the desert terrain. What more could he possibly need?

God.

Moses did not yet know that, but God did, and God took the responsibility of responding to Moses before Moses even knew to call on God. Amazing! But that’s how it often works.

So how did God get Moses’ attention? God set fire to a bush that kept on burning without burning up!

It worked. Moses turned to look – really look. And then God spoke.

“From the middle of the burning bush, God called, ‘Moses, Moses.’

“And Moses said, ‘Here am I’,” Exodus 3:4.


Questions: When God spoke to Moses, what were the very first words? Have you ever had the impression that God was calling you for a particular task? In what way does it matter that the Almighty God personally knows your name?

Prayer: LORD God, Heavenly Father of all and Creator of every good thing in me, thank You for knowing my name and everything else about me. Thank You for getting my attention and reminding me to talk with You throughout the day and during the night. Help me, Lord, to listen, hear, and obey You in carrying out the good work to which You have called me in Your Holy Name.

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For more about this subject, see “God hears groans as prayers.”

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© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. If your church or Bible study group wants to use these articles as a study guide, just let everyone know where to find the blog. For articles on a variety of Bible topics and also on poetry and various aspects of writing, see Blogs by Mary.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

God hears groans as prayers

Background: After the sons of Jacob sold their brother Joseph into slavery, many years went by before a famine brought the family together again in Egypt. Ironically, the famine also brought many native Egyptians into slavery under the rule of Joseph, who had risen to the position second only to Pharaoh. Whether this enslaved the Twelve Tribes of Israel is not clear. Regardless, the Hebrew people remained in Egypt long after the famine had passed because, 400 years later, they were still there!

By then Joseph had long been forgotten, and God’s people were slaves for sure. In fact, conditions had become so terribly cruel that the firstborn son in every family was killed. According to the familiar story in Exodus 2, though, Moses’ mother placed her beautiful child in a waterproof basket and set him afloat on the Nile River. When Pharaoh’s daughter found him, she sent Miriam – Moses’ sister – to look for a nurse among the Hebrew women, and the girl brought her mother to care for her own son.

In this environment, Moses’ life began with love and caring. Although the Bible does not mention how long he stayed with his real family or what exposure he had to songs and stories, he most likely heard about God and the godly Patriarchs among his natural forefathers. But from a young age, he also lived in the home of Pharaoh’s daughter so would have had the most superior education in the world – culturally, politically, and academically.

Once grown, his attempts to rescue a fellow Hebrew resulted in his murdering an Egyptian who had been cruel! With Pharaoh himself now after him, Moses fled to the wilderness where, for forty years, he learned firsthand about living in the desert and tending unruly sheep!

When God had fully prepared Moses to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery:

“…the king of Egypt died. And the people of Israel sighed and cried out because they were in bondage, and their cry for help rose up to God. Then God heard their groaning and remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the people of Israel, and knew,”
(it was time to act) Exodus 2:23-25.

Question: Moses and the Hebrew people obviously had to wait many years (centuries!) to be released from slavery. In what ways did this passage of time help to prepare Moses and the people? Was God also waiting and waiting for the right time?

Prayer: Dear LORD God, thank You for Your perfect timing, even when it seems like it takes forever! Thank You for knowing what we need, even when we have nothing but cries and sighs for prayers. Thank You for preparing us for the work You have given us to do as free people, fully redeemed by You.


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© 2012, Mary Sayler, all rights reserved.

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