Ezekiel 13-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is faithful to His everlasting covenant with us

Ohhh…some rough reading today. The Northern Kingdom had already fallen to Babylon, and now judgment was about to fall on the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  The prophets had given warnings to no avail, and most of the Israelites remained in their idolatry and sinful ways even in captivity.

At the end of Chapter 12 we read, “You’ve heard that proverb they quote in Israel: ‘Time passes, and prophecies come to nothing.’  Tell the people, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  I will put an end to this proverb, and you will soon stop quoting it.’ Now give them this new proverb to replace the old one: ‘The time has come for every prophecy to be fulfilled.’”(12:22-23)  And then the judgments began.

Judgment prophecies were given through Ezekiel regarding: 1) false prophets of the day who whitewashed the truth so that the Israelites would feel only good about themselves, 2) mediums who used magic and charms to ensnare the people away from God, and 3) leaders who set up idols in their hearts to worship instead of worshipping the true and living God. (14)  The similarities today are remarkable.

The Babylonian captives believed that Jerusalem, the Holy City, would survive the siege, but God called Jerusalem and its people a useless vine. “The people of Jerusalem are like grapevines growing among the trees of the forest.  Since they are useless, I have thrown them on the fire to be burned.” (15:6)  Even more devastating was His charge that Jerusalem was His unfaithful wife, who, worse than a prostitute, had many lovers and didn’t even charge them because she so wanted to be with them.  Jerusalem was filled with altars and shrines to the gods of neighboring countries, and final judgment was coming to Jerusalem.

The riddle of Chapter 17 speaks of the besieged Jerusalem attempting to make an alliance with Egypt to fight against Babylon, but both were crushed by the mighty Babylonian army.  I’ve wondered if it was as perplexing to God as it was to me when I read of this alliance with Egypt, the very country that had enslaved the Israelites without mercy for so many centuries.  Why would they seek to go back to the very ones who had bound them? It was as if they would do anything to keep from trusting God.

Early in our ministry, we had an evangelist friend that God had miraculously delivered from drugs and given a powerful ministry, but over time he slipped back into the bondage of drugs once again.  I’ve never really understood how it happened, but I believe it had to do with pride in what he had accomplished, forgetting Who it was that had delivered him.  Likewise, Israel, so proud of the nation they had become, trusted only in their own plans, rejecting both God and the warnings of Isaiah and the prophets against this alliance with Egypt.  But then, wasn’t it pride that started the whole sin thing with Lucifer? Anytime we consider ourselves equal to God, we are headed for destruction as well.

Well, before we fall right through the floor in depression, let’s remember that Israel is alive and reasonably well on planet earth today.  “Now this is what the Sovereign Lord says:  I will give you what you deserve, for you have taken your solemn vows lightly by breaking your covenant.  Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.” (16:59-60)

God remembered His covenant with Abraham, and He would take the remnant that turned toward Him, the Daniels and Shadrachs, and build a nation.  The everlasting covenant, Christ Jesus, is available to Israel today; and when we pray, let’s pray they will accept Him and escape final destruction.  After all, hasn’t His Word asked us to pray for Israel? 

Moving Forward:  May I not take my solemn vows lightly to God’s everlasting covenant with me through Christ Jesus.  I reject even the slightest bit of pride in anything I may accomplish.  May it be He who sits on the throne of my heart today. 

Tomorrow @ Luke 15-16

Exodus 5-8 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Through His perspective, nothing is impossible

When painting a picture, an artist goes to great length to exact the proper perspective in a landscape or portrait. An old trick that many painters use is to hold up the thumb at arm’s length to measure the apparent height of a tree in the foreground in relation to objects in the background, etc. The apparent height of the tree may look like it is the length of the thumb; but of course, we know the actual height is much taller. It’s all about perspective, the measured or objective assessment of an object or situation.

If the perspective in a painting is off, the entire picture will look skewed and off balance. This fact holds true in all of life as well – if our perspective in a situation is wrong, our response and behavior will be off balance and skewed. Moses learned a lesson on perspective in our reading today.

After finally acquiescing to God’s call on his life to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses buckled at the first sign of resistance from Pharaoh, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!”(5:22-23) God had to put things into perspective for Moses.

Once again, God revealed to Moses precisely with whom he was dealing, “I am Yahweh—‘the Lord.’ I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. And I reaffirmed my covenant with them.”(6:2-4) The patriarchs knew Him as the Almighty, but now He also would be known as Yahweh, Jehovah, the One who would keep His covenant with Israel, the One who would perform great miracles in order to do so.

Moses! Raise your thumb and see the Egyptian landscape through faith in Jehovah, the One who keeps His promises. When I think of the challenge before Moses, I’m reminded of the story of David and Goliath. As David looked out on the landscape before him and saw the giant, perhaps his boldness came from a raised thumb as he thought, “God will help me take him! Why that giant is no bigger than my thumb!” Faith changes our perspective.

Moses went before Pharaoh with this promise from God, “Pay close attention to this. I will make you seem like God to Pharaoh, and your brother, Aaron, will be your prophet.”(7:1) Through God’s perspective, apparently, Moses seemed like God to Pharaoh who was considered a god himself. Even though Moses still met with much resistance from Pharaoh, he was allowed regular access to him because of his status.

How do we look at the challenges we face? When our trust is in Jehovah, the One who keeps His promises, we will measure our problems with a different perspective. We will hold up our faith, that thumb if you will, and see our apparent trial as God sees it. And in order to keep His promises, He will do great miracles. Thumbs up!

Moving Forward: Today my thumb is up. I’ll not look at my challenges in the natural, without faith. I’ll view them as God apparently sees them, and nothing is impossible for Him! He kills giants, parts water and raises the dead!

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 21-25

Exodus 1-4 (NLT)

Discover His heart: “I Am Who I Am,” and He’s all we need.

Whenever I go to a doctor’s office, I check out his or her credentials. Most doctors proudly display their college diploma, medical school diploma, residency, special recognition and honors right there on their office walls. I appreciate this because it saves me from asking embarrassing questions. If I see a diploma from a country that has only been in existence for about six months, chances are I’m not staying. I want to know that the individual who is going to diagnose, treat and/or cut me has received the proper training. It’s just the way I am.

We want our employers, politicians and church leaders to be well trained and prepared to lead. Thankfully, God sees things this way as well, and He spent 80 years training Moses for the leadership position of a lifetime. Moses, however, turned Him down.

@ Exodus 3
“I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering…Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.” (7,10) From birth, Moses had been in training to deliver God’s people from slavery in Egypt.  After 40 years in Egypt as prince learning the Egyptians ways and 40 years in Midian as shepherd preparing for flock management, God decided that Moses was ready to lead the Israelites for the next 40 years in the wilderness to their Promised Land – I think I see a pattern here.

Despite all his training, Moses was not the kind of individual who would choose to run for president or work his way up the corporate ladder to be CEO because Moses had some inferiority issues. I would imagine that downgrading from prince to shepherd did not do much for his self-confidence. So Moses started to protest, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” (11) But the question wasn’t really about who Moses was, and God was about to do just a little more training before He released Moses to his assignment.

I Am Who I Am. Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you…Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.” (14-15) When God calls us to a task, it’s not about who we are. It’s about Who He is, and He is all we need. He never calls us without first equipping us and providing all the tools we need to do the job.

“O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled…Lord, please! Send anyone else.” (10-13) I think God loved that Moses’ words got all tangled up when he spoke because Moses could depend only on Him, not on himself. In response to the cry of Moses, God gave him Aaron because He always provides all that we need to do what He asks us to do. He doesn’t easily give up on us or on our calling.

So many times in my life God has assigned me to positions and roles that I felt utterly inadequate to do, yet as I looked back over my life, much of what I had done up to that point prepared me for those roles. “Take your shepherd’s staff with you, and use it to perform the miraculous signs I have shown you.” That shepherd’s staff from his 40 years of shepherding placed in Moses’ hand precisely what he needed to perform countless miracles. God is faithful to put in our hands the tools we need and the words in our mouths to prepare and equip us for whatever He calls us to do. May our words never include, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.

Moving Forward: I surrender my inadequacies and apprehensions to Him today because I believe He will prepare and equip me for every task He calls me to. He’s all I need.

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 16-20

Genesis 44-47 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: The guidance of His hand is just, merciful and good

Ah…the sweetness of reconciliation!  Books have been written about it, movies have portrayed its beautiful stories, and most of us have experienced it.  Outside of the amazing, and I do mean amazing, reconciliation with God that takes place when we accept Jesus as our Savior, the story of Joseph and his brothers tops the list for me.   “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place…God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors.  So it was God who sent me here, not you!” (45:4-8)

Not only is this a story of reconciliation, but it is a strong and deliberate message about the providence of God, the intervention of the Divine into our lives to bring about His purposes for our good. “So it was God who sent me here, not you!”  When Joseph forgave his brothers and reconciled with them, he partnered with God’s will to bring about God’s Divine plan for a nation. Our obedience to the Word of God has ramifications beyond our imagination.  Had Joseph refused to forgive, God would have sought another vessel to accomplish His good. 

@ Genesis 46
“I am God, the God of your father,’ the voice said. ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make your family into a great nation. I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again.’” (3-4)  I can only imagine the hesitancy in Jacob’s heart to leave Canaan, the land promised to his grandfather, Abraham, for the heathen land of Egypt.  When we think about it, this move changed the history of Israel.

Settled in their Promised Land, Abraham’s family was growing in size, wealth and power, and it just seems as though carting them off to Egypt for 400 years was somewhat counterproductive to God’s divine plan for His people.  After all, He could have abundantly blessed Jacob in spite of the famine years and brought the nations of the world to him.  In the natural, without the impact of the supernatural, we might wonder about His purpose in this.

Because of the move to Egypt, the Israelites would one day migrate back to Canaan and spend many years in war with the occupants of Canaan who had also grown powerful over the past 400 years.  But this is where we are challenged to trust the hand of God even when we don’t understand it.  Early on when God promised Abraham a son, He foretold of events to come, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years…After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.” (15:13-16)

God could not yet give Abraham his entire inheritance because He is just.  Abraham’s neighbors in Canaan did not believe in Jehovah, but God gave them 400 years to choose Him over their witchcraft and idols before He allowed Israel to destroy them for their wickedness. In the meantime, the family of Abraham was ever growing in numbers over in Goshen, all their needs were provided, and He was making them ready to step into their destiny.

Sometimes the hand of God in our lives seems to be without purpose and direction in life’s economy.  We may question what the kingdom of God gains through our loss, our dysfunction or our trial?  Well, so often we just don’t know, but through His Word, we understand all that He does is just, merciful and good for us as well as all others who live and breathe on the planet.  As He was with the Israelites in Egypt, so will He be with us in our Egypt.  “I will go with you down to Egypt…” 

Moving Forward:  In my obedience to Him today, I know I can trust His hand to guide me with justice, mercy, and goodness.  “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts…And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” (Isaiah 55:8) 

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 6-10

Genesis 40-43 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He takes us through the fire to bring humility to our hearts

Unless gluten intolerance is a problem, whole wheat bread products are considered to be good for us  I do my best to avoid what many believe to be the enemy of healthy nutrition, that being all things white – rice, flour, potatoes.  However, there’s nothing like the crusty white bread that waiters at Italian restaurants place right in front of my Italian nose. I sometimes go ahead and indulge with the understanding that anything soaked in olive oil must be good for me.  In reality, I know this isn’t exactly true, but at that moment, it works for me.  Life is good.

I’ve learned to replicate this delicious bread at home, crusty on the outside, warm and tender on the inside, by placing an uncut loaf of bread on the oven rack at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.  In all fairness, I will admit that most whole grain loaves of bread work just as well.  The bread comes out of the oven firm and crusty on the outside, but because of the steam that develops in it, it’s warm and tender on the inside.  It takes some heat to get it to this point, but it is well worth the effort.  Sometimes it takes a little time under the fire to make us tender on the inside as well.  After time spent in the heat, Joseph appeared hard and crusty on the outside, but on the inside, he was warm and tender.

Sold as a slave and imprisoned when just a teenage boy, Joseph spent 13 years being processed by the Lord, under the heat if you will, to become the second in command of all of Egypt at the age of 30.  This would be a heady position for anyone, but after coming through the fire as he did, Joseph was humble with a servant’s heart.  Through His process, Joseph was transformed from a proud, arrogant young man to a humble servant of God, but the acid test for him was at the meeting of his older brothers. 

@ Genesis 42
“Since Joseph was governor of all Egypt and in charge of selling grain to all the people, it was to him that his brothers came. When they arrived, they bowed before him with their faces to the ground. Joseph recognized his brothers instantly, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. ‘Where are you from?’ he demanded.” (6-7)  Well, Joseph certainly appeared crusty on the outside!  But after Joseph heard their regrets over their past sins regarding him, “He turned away from them and began to weep. When he regained his composure, he spoke to them again.” (24)  Joseph – tender on the inside.

 This is when an unchanged man would have jumped up and said in retaliation, “Ah ha!  I have you now!  Prison for you!”  But not Joseph.  Joseph wept.  Of all the examples in the Bible of mercy and grace, for me, the story of Joseph is second only to that of Jesus. Because of Joseph’s heart, the family of Jacob was saved from starvation and grew to be the mighty nation of Israel.

When we respond with a heart of restoration rather than one of retaliation towards those who have hurt us, we are living proof of a changed heart.  Sometimes events in our lives may toughen up our skin a little, and that’s not always bad, but if our hearts remain soft and pliable towards others, we will be motivated to restore relationships rather than destroy them. This is when God knows He can use us for a greater purpose in His Kingdom as He did with Joseph.  Peter said it this way, “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.” (I Peter 5:6) 

Moving Forward: My prayer today – Lord, keep me warm and tender on the inside, always seeking to bring healing and restoration in every situation. 


Tomorrow @ I Samuel 1-5

Genesis 36-39 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He will not allow us to be tempted more than we can endure

As a rule, it’s helpful to maintain a measure of self-confidence as we move through life accomplishing God’s purpose for us otherwise we might not ever get out of bed.  We can spot individuals with this admirable attribute from the way they walk and carry themselves, heads held high, shoulders back, confident smiles. This demeanor works well for those who have it, and most have learned to carry it with caution so that they don’t appear arrogant and self-absorbed.  From scripture it seems that young Joseph was one of these confident individuals – favored, handsome, well-dressed – but unfortunately he had not learned how to carry it off successfully. 

@ Genesis 37
“When Joseph was seventeen years old, he often tended his father’s flocks. He worked for his half-brothers…But Joseph reported to his father some of the bad things his brothers were doing.  Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children…So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.” (2-4)  Bad blood!  Add to Joseph’s favor and confidence the fact that he was the family snitch, and we can understand the disapproval shown by his brothers.

“One night Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him more than ever. ‘Listen to this dream,’ he said. ‘We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!’” (5-7)  I’ve often wondered just exactly how clueless Joseph was to share his dream, or was he intentional in his revelation?  Evidently, God saw some of the latter in Joseph and started to process this young man into a vessel worthy of the honor He would one day give him.

“When the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt… the Midianite traders arrived in Egypt, where they sold Joseph to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.” (28,36)   And this began the processing of Joseph, confident son of Jacob, now slave.

While we may think that Joseph received a little comeuppance, as they say, God was preparing this confident young man to save His people.  The thing that put Joseph in this dire situation is the very thing that pulled Joseph through to the other side of his trial because fortunately, he was even more confident in the Lord than he was in himself.  When Potiphar’s wife came after Joseph (39:6-23), he confidently declared, “How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.” (9)  God was not surprised by Joseph’s response.

God uses the strengths He has placed within us to accomplish His good when we surrender them to Him, acting out of humility rather than pride.  Sometimes we are processed like Joseph in order to bring this about.  This is not done to crush us or to destroy who we are, but to transform us into useful vessels of honor.  “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience.  And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (I Corinthians 10:13)  In the process, we may not believe this, but it is true nonetheless – God is on our side, and just as He did with Joseph, He sees us as we will become. 

Moving Forward: I’m grateful that He loves me enough to process and perfect me.  Sometimes I’m a slow learner, but He’s a patient God. 

Tomorrow @ Ruth

Isaiah 34-39 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He is the One we can count on

Isaiah 34 is the end of 34 chapters of judgment on the nations, including Judah and Israel, and the entire world.  Whew!  I’ve watched a few movies over the years that deliver one scene after another of bad luck, bad news and bad people. After a while, I just feel kind of beat up; and if I have any strength left, I pick up that remote and change the channel with the hope of something better. Some parts of Isaiah are a little hard to take as well

Thankfully, Chapter 35 brings a short reprieve with a message of hope and restoration for the future. “And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness.” (35:8) Not the low way, mind you, but the high way…the set apart way…the way of the redeemed…the way of Jesus.  Nothing of eternal harm can snatch away those on this path because it’s His path. He is with us, leading us to His home, our eternal destination.  Nothing gives me more peace in this day of airplanes blowing up buildings, school shootings and nuclear stockpiles than the knowledge that I am on His path.  As long as I choose to stay there, I will reach my eternal destination with Him!

In Chapter 36, King Hezekiah made decisions that were contrary to what the prophet Isaiah had advised.  The Assyrians, enemies from the area known as Iraq today, had conquered much of the world.  In fear of this great enemy, Hezekiah decided to join forces with his ungodly neighbors in an alliance to fight this enemy and disregarded Isaiah’s message of God’s promise to deliver them if they would trust Him.  I’ve found that fear is never a good adviser.  Egypt’s mighty chariots seemed more tangible, more real to Hezekiah than God’s promise to him.  Hezekiah was confused.

Assyrian King Sennacherib knew two things about Judah – they had been a God-fearing people and they had made an alliance with Egypt against him.  He sent representatives to meet with representatives of Hezekiah.   King Sennacherib was asking this question of Hezekiah, “Who are you counting on that you rebelled against me?”  Hezekiah’s confused loyalties emboldened his enemy.  This causes me to do a little self-examination. Who am I counting on today?  Have confused loyalties allowed my enemy entrance into my life?

Sennacherib’s message renounced the Egyptians and Hezekiah, but more importantly, he blasphemed the living God.  “What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?” (36:20) Not a good move on his part.  Hezekiah’s men tore their clothes in despair and went home to report to the king, who also tore his clothes (37:1).

This is a custom I am not acquainted with – the tearing of the clothes.  I know of yelling, pacing, sobbing, thrashing about, etc., but not the tearing of the clothes. In that day, however, it was a statement of humility and repentance – they would not allow their bodies to be clothed with ornament or finery when the enemy was attempting to strip the living God of His honor and deity.  This was the signal that Hezekiah was no longer confused.

And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth.  Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Now, O Lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.” (16-18,20) Soon God brought great victory to Judah, as well as an amazing healing to Hezekiah (Chapter 38).  Judah’s doom was suspended…for a while. 

Moving forward: Today I symbolically tear my clothes at the thought that I would listen to any attempt by the enemy to strip my Father of His honor and deity.  I will not be confused about the one I am counting on“I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on Him.  I have put my hope in His word.”  (Psalm 130:5) 

Tomorrow @Matthew 17-19