Exodus 29-32 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He longs for us to know Him as our God. He desires to live with us.

@Exodus 29
“Then I will live among the people of Israel and be their God, and they will know that I am the Lord their God.  I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them.  I am the Lord their God.” (45-46)  God wants relationship, plain and simple.  He wants to live with me, not just visit occasionally, or send cards and emails.  He wants to live with me – laugh at my bed head in the morning, hover over my devotional time, go to work with me, be the center of my other relationships and watch me drool in my sleep. Whether or not anyone else in the world wants to be with you or with me, we need to understand that He does!

Before Jesus came to die for our sins, there was a long, detailed process to follow in order for sinful man to fellowship with our magnificently Holy God.  These chapters in Exodus detail the purification, sanctification, ritual sacrifice, fragrant incense, anointing and much more that were required to secure relationship with Him.  Why all these instructions and details to follow? I’m sure there are many reasons that my mind doesn’t understand, but if God could not even look at Jesus on the cross as He bore our sin, how could He ever live with the Israelites in their sin?  Atonement for sins had to be made.  From verse 45, we understand that he wanted His people to know that He was their God.  He wasn’t just someone they happened upon, stumbled over by accident or met along the way.  He wanted them to know Him through an intentional connect.

The death and resurrection of Jesus changed the process that God requires, but not the outcome He desires. Our Holy God is now able to live with us through our acceptance of the ultimate sacrifice of His Son.  However, I believe He still desires that we know He is our God, not just someone we happened upon, stumbled over by accident or met along the way.  With our busy lives and commitments, it is easy to treat Him like a casual acquaintance rather than the One who lives with us, sleeps and wakes with us, the One with whom we are intimate.

What a heartbreaking moment for God – while sharing with Moses the very details of this intimacy, those He longed to live with were dancing around and worshiping a golden calf.  What was Aaron thinking? Every time I read this account, I am amazed that Aaron, a priest of the Most High God, wasn’t immediately toast.  Moses interceded to God for Aaron and the people, and God allowed His mercy to supersede His punishment.  “So the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.” (32:14)

Fortunately for us, we have Someone interceding for us, “Because Jesus lives forever, His priesthood lasts forever. Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” (Hebrews 7:25)  Hallelujah!  Mercy allows Him to live with us and also enables the intimacy with us He so desires.  When Someone wants us this much, how could we ever choose a substitute? 

Moving Forward:  My heart is full of His love for me today – His patient, merciful love.  I approach this day knowing that He is God and so thankful that I can spend the day with Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 20-24

Jeremiah 32-36 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He will not easily let go of us and rewards our commitment to stay

Because I went to a small college and knew my fellow students reasonably well, the first day of each school term was somewhat revealing as to how challenging our classes would be.  After we filed into each of our classes, we would look around the room for the curve wreckers – those students that we knew would ace the tests and raise the grading curve for all the other students.  In our reading, Jeremiah, too, was looking in his day for those who would set the standard high and follow after God. 

@ Jeremiah 33
While Babylon was laying siege to the city of Jerusalem, Jeremiah received these words of promise from the Lord, “Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come…You expect to fight the Babylonians, but the men of this city are already as good as dead…Nevertheless, the time will come when I will heal Jerusalem’s wounds and give it prosperity and true peace…I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line.  He will do what is just and right throughout the land…I will never abandon the descendants of Jacob or David, my servant…Instead, I will restore them to their land and have mercy on them.” (3-26)

This message to Jeremiah reveals the heart of our Lord.  He desires that we ask Him when we need direction for our lives.  In our asking, we are humbly saying that we cannot figure this out on our own and that we are dependent on Him for His help, and He responds to our submission to Him. “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.” (Matthew 7:7)

The “righteous descendant from King David’s line” is yet another Old Testament prophetic promise about Jesus.  Although Israel would face dark times, God had not given up on His special treasure, and He had a plan to redeem them.  Even still, the Israelites rejected the first coming of Jesus, but these scriptures foretell of His second coming where His throne will be forever established in Jerusalem.

Israel’s existence today is proof that He has not given up on His chosen ones. As adoptees into this family, it is our assurance as well that He will not give up on us.  He will send Jeremiahs into our lives to call us back to Him if we stray, and as with Israel, He will not let us slip away without great effort to keep us.  Oh, how He loves us! 

@ Jeremiah 35
Oh, those Recabites! They were the curve wreckers of their day.  “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)  For over 200 years, this Nomadic group had followed their ancestor’s special vow of dedication to God to not drink wine, to not buy land and to not plant crops.  Because Israel had trouble keeping a commitment to God for two minutes, much less 200 years, God brought the Recabites before the Israelites as an example of steadfast devotion to Him.  “Come and learn a lesson about how to obey me…Jehonadab son of Recab will always have descendants who serve me.” (13,19)  As with the Recabites, I pray that my commitment to the Lord will be so evident that it is imprinted on the hearts of my children and my children’s children.

Today I have learned a lesson about how to obey Him. I am challenged to listen to the Jeremiahs of my generation even though their messages don’t always bring warm fuzzies to my heart.  Their messages from God are given to save me, protect me and keep me so that one day I will worship before God’s very throne in Heaven.  I’m challenged to be a curve wrecker in my generation, setting the bar high and keeping strong my commitment to follow the Lord in obedience.   If I do this, I believe He has promised that I will always have descendants who serve the Lord! 

Moving Forward: I move forward today so very thankful that He has not given up on me.  I pray that I will always have descendants who follow the Lord, and may they be the curve wreckers of their generation! 

Tomorrow @ Luke 1-2

Jeremiah 27-31 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He will be found when we search for Him with our whole hearts

When someone has both good news and bad news to offer us, we are often asked, “Which do you want to hear first, the good news or the bad news?  I usually prefer to hear the bad news first so that the conversation can end on a high note.  Some people feel they can only handle bad news after a healthy dose of good news to fortify them.  Jeremiah had been sharing devastating news to the Israelites for quite some time, not that it had done much to change their lifestyles, but finally he was given words of hope and encouragement from the Lord for His people.  And great news it was! 

@Jeremiah 29
Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon contained some of Scripture’s most quoted and encouraging verses, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.  ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.’” (11-13)

The best news on the planet today is that He has plans for us and He knows what they are even when we don’t.  If I understood why He so often waits to share those plans with us, I would certainly explain it, but most of the time I just don’t know why.  I do know that He reveals His hope-filled future for us at just the right moment, His right moment, and they are good plans, plans we could not have made through our own limited abilities.

In addition to the good advice from yesterday’s reading in Job to “glorify His mighty works, singing songs of praise” when we are waiting on Him, God has given us some tangible steps to follow while we wait on Him.  “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! (5-6)  In other words, we are encouraged to continue on in life with hopeful optimism, preparing for the future with what we know to do until His plans are revealed.  During this time, we are challenged to look for Him wholeheartedly – enthusiastically, sincerely, unconditionally, with a whole heart – and He has promised that He will be found.

In the holding pattern, it’s easy for me to become discouraged and want to give up.  Where are you, God?  What is Your plan? But, of course, this response to my challenge is not the wholehearted response He desires.  I have determined to keep building, planting and seeking Him with the understanding that He is listening and I will find Him!

Obviously, with all this activity there is little time for moping, pouting, withdrawing or hermiting.  When we follow God’s instructions, we move forward with hope, confidence and prayer, waiting for the revelation of His good plans! 

Moving Forward:  Help me today, Lord, to follow your instructions and wholeheartedly look for You and Your plan as I build, plant, eat and do all that I know to do. 

Tomorrow @ Mark 15-16

Exodus 9-12 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Our merciful God offers us many opportunities to turn our hearts towards Him.

I’ve known some stubborn people in my life, but none the likes of Pharaoh. After the snake-swallowing event with Moses, I’m reasonably sure that I would have given in and let God’s people go! Bloody water, frogs, gnats, flies, dead livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness – obviously Pharaoh wanted to keep his cheap labor.

For a long time, I didn’t understand the scripture that said God hardened Pharaoh’s heart because this would definitely put Pharaoh at a disadvantage even if he had wanted to let God’s people go. However, I have come to understand that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God’s actions. I know many individuals who experience trouble in their lives because of their sins; and in blaming God for it, their hearts are hardened towards Him and His people. Jesus came to soften their stony hearts and bring healing and deliverance.

@ Exodus 12
The instructions the Lord gave to Moses regarding the Passover dinner preparations and the blood on the doorposts were detailed and non-negotiable. God was about to deliver from bondage all those who followed His instructions to the letter, and through their obedience, the sons of Israel were spared. “Pharaoh and all his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died.”(30) With the death of his nation’s firstborn sons and the wailing of his people, stubborn Pharaoh finally acquiesced – Israel was free to leave.

The story of the Passover dinner paints an interesting picture. “These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the Lord’s Passover.” (12:11) Dressed for dinner! How appropriate! With the wailing of the mourning Egyptians in earshot, the Israelites were told to dress for dinner and eat quickly as if ready to leave at any moment. And they did.

I view the church today in somewhat the same position. We are dressed for dinner with our lamps full, with His blood on our heart’s door and waiting for the coming of the bridegroom. We are expecting to leave at any moment! But within earshot, if we really listen, we hear the wailing. We hear the wailing of the lost souls of our world expressed in so many different ways, needing deliverance too.

The blood on the doorpost was only for the Israelites, but it was replaced at Calvary by the blood of the perfect lamb, the perfect sacrifice, and this blood is for everyone! How can we ignore their wailing, their cries for help? Better we roll up the sleeves of our dinner dress, seek out the lost and bring them to the table. Maître d’? Table for….all!

Moving Forward: With a soft heart this day, I listen for the wail, the cry of the lost, and invite them to come and dine with me.

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 26-31

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

Jeremiah 1-6 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He fills our mouths with words of hope for the lost

Artists are generally sensitive individuals. Having dabbled in oil painting through the years, I know that my best work is done when I’m not distracted and when I stay focused on the scene I’m painting. When I allow the beauty of the landscape or the drama of a scene that I’m painting to touch my heart, the feelings that are stirred end up on the canvas. They tell a story while leaving room for the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks, and that is the goal of any artist.

We begin the Book of Jeremiah today, a book filled with warnings and judgments from God for Judah and Israel through His prophet, Jeremiah. Fortunately, Jeremiah was a sensitive guy and an artist of sorts in the way he delivered God’s word. By using word pictures throughout the book, Jeremiah painted many pictures of warning for the Israelites, but sadly, they didn’t appreciate his work.

At only 20 years old, Jeremiah received this word from the Lord, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.’ ‘O Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!’ The Lord replied, ‘Don’t say, “I’m too young,” for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!’ Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said, ‘Look, I have put my words in your mouth!’” (1:5-10) And so, the painting began…

“The heavens are shocked at such a thing…For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me—the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” (2:12-13) Picture a dry and thirsty nation leaving a life-giving fountain of water for cracked empty pots in the ground, forsaking the true and living God for dead, useless idols. Jeremiah’s illustrations showed the shocking foolishness of Judah’s behavior.

Jeremiah painted pictures of the unfaithful wife, the thief, the crooked road and wayward hearts, stalking lions, destroyed vineyards, storms, playing children, plowed ground and so many more vivid pictures. All were painted by a yielded artist who used the words that God had placed in his mouth to tell the story of judgment that would come if Judah did not repent. Each picture was worth a thousand words, but at the moment, Judah wasn’t into art.

“My heart, my heart—I writhe in pain! My heart pounds within me! I cannot be still. For I have heard the blast of enemy trumpets and the roar of their battle cries.” (4:13) We would expect this anguish from the heart of one so tender towards God. Jesus had much the same response to the condition of Jerusalem in His day, “But as He came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, He began to weep. ‘How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.’” (Luke 19:41-42) However, all those who accept Him today joyfully celebrate the way to peace during this Easter Season.

Reading about the life of Jeremiah should be a wake-up call for us. For over 40 years he faithfully spoke the message God had given him although no one responded to it. Ever mindful of the task set before me, I am challenged to paint the picture and tell the story of Jesus to a world that is in much the same shape as the world in Jeremiah’s day. Will I be faithful regardless of the response? Am I so broken by all that I see around me that I weep for those without hope and those in need of a Savior? Before it’s too late…

Moving Forward: I pray today that I will share His message from a broken heart, painting a picture of hope for each lost soul. And as the Lord was with Jeremiah, I know He will be with me.

Tomorrow @ Mark 5-6

I Samuel 11-15 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He desires our obedience more than our sacrifice

The human will is a powerful drive. It keeps us moving forward and helps us accomplish good and sometimes great things. We see it in the very young when their will clashes with our will, perhaps as a little foot stomp of defiance. When left unchecked, a teenager often expresses this rebellion with door slamming, outbursts, and things can get ugly. From a very early age, my children more than once heard me repeat the scripture from today’s reading, “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,” and this was followed by an explanation of witchcraft. Their tender hearts really didn’t want to be a part of such a thing, and, thankfully, they avoided the rebellion that many teenagers allow to disrupt their young lives. Unfortunately, King Saul just didn’t get it.

@ I Samuel 15
In response to the Israelites’ demand for a king to rule over them, Samuel, under God’s direction, anointed the tall, handsome Saul to lead His people. I envision the mother’s of Israel tucking their children in at night with the assurance that all would be well because they now had a king to rule over them. Sadly, nothing was further from the truth.

“Then the Lord said to Samuel, ‘I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.’” (10) The first several months of King Saul’s reign were a disaster. In less than two years, Saul had managed to: usurp the role of priest by sacrificing a burnt offering to the Lord (13:8-14), starve his army so they did not have the strength to fight the Philistines (14:24-26), threaten killing his son because of his senseless oath (14:42-45) and disobey God’s direct orders to kill all the Amalekites (1-9). Saul certainly had been a busy king.

Saul’s disobedience led God to reject him as king and make His statement to Samuel in verse 10. When Samuel went to Saul with a heavy heart over God’s news, Saul did his best to cover his tracks and even lied to cover up his disobedience with the Amalekites – as if he could fool God. Saul argued, “I did obey…I carried out…I destroyed…” and I sacrificed. (20-21) But to this Samuel replied with a valuable lesson for all of us, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.” (22-23) And with that, Saul was rejected as king by God.

God did not include this story and others like them in the Bible to tattletale on His people. No, He included them as life lessons for us today. We may faithfully attend church, joyously sing a sacrifice of praise to Him, give to the poor and run ourselves ragged by serving on committees and doing good works.  However, if we are walking in disobedience to His voice, if we are doing all this instead of obeying Him in any area, our actions mean little to Him. In fact, He considers our rebellion and disobedience as sinful as something we would never do – witchcraft!

According to Jesus, the very beginning of our obedience is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:30-31) If we spend more time with television, social networking or computer games than we spend meditating on Him, reading His word and praying, does He really honor and receive our sacrifice of time or money in our doing for Him? If we harbor hatred or unforgiveness towards someone, does He really honor and accept the sacrifices we make for Him? In light of I Samuel 15:22, whether or not they make us feel good, these are questions we should answer.

Moving Forward: As a New Testament believer, I’m thankful for the convicting power of the Holy Spirit that leads me to obedience. I want my sacrifice of praise today to reach God’s throne and please Him.

Tomorrow @ Psalms 36-38