June 23-29

 This week’s memory verses:

Exodus 20:4,7-8
You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth… You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

This week’s Scripture Readings:

Exodus 19:1-20:21 – The Ten Commandments
Exodus 32:1-34:35 – The Golden Calf
Joshua 1:1-18 – Joshua Succeeds Moses
Joshua 3:1-4:24 – Crossing the Jordan
Joshua 5:13-6:27 – The Fall of Jehrico

Day 1

The Ten Commandments – Exodus 19 and 20 

It took roughly three months for the Israelites to reach Mt. Sinai. In that time, they have seen delivery from Egypt, the Red Sea miracle, the provision of food/water, and the prayerful victory of the Amalekites. Now at Sinai – the same Moses first encountered God in the burning bush – and the place where Israel will be for the next 58 chapters of scripture – God reveals his plan to the Israelite people. He intends for them to be a priestly, holy nation unto God if they keep his covenant.

This is a vital truth for several reasons. First, God is letting them know they have a unique place in His plan and second, God wants every person to obey him. Israel is special and set apart from the other nations because of the purposes of God. But they are set apart from the other nations for the other nations.

Israel is told they will be blessed if they obey the God who saved them and the Israelite people agree to this. God goes on to tell Moses that he will reveal himself on the mountain. However, the people must ready themselves and heed the boundaries that will be set. God’s holiness was a threat to sinful men! God appears and his presence strikes fear in the people. At Mt. Sinai, we see a holy God showing up in all his glory, to institute the law through a mediator in Moses. At Mt. Calvary, we see God executing his redemptive plan through the mediation of Jesus. By his flesh and blood, Jesus Christ our Lord, fulfilled the law and instituted a new covenant. Because of what he has done, we are free to come before God in obedience because of all Christ has done. Sinai says, “Stand back!” Calvary says, “Draw near!”

Exodus 20 contains one of the most familiar passages in the Bible! As the Lord gives the Israelite people the Ten Commandments. The first four all pertain to our conduct before God. The next six all deal with how we treat those around us before God. While there is much to be said, even about each particular commandment, today we will focus on the commandments in general. First, it is important to know that the purpose of the law was not to give us a standard we could achieve, and then be counted righteous before God. The purpose of the law was first to show us God’s perfect standard, and second, to show how it is impossible for any of us to obey that standard. It was always meant to point people to their need for God. Next, it is important to know that they are still valid today. Let me explain this. First, God has not changed. Therefore, what he requires for his people (love for God and love for others) is still the same. Jesus summed this up when he explained, in the New Testament, the law can be fulfilled by loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:36-40). Second, Jesus fulfilled the law, he did not abolish it. Since Jesus fulfilled the law perfectly, and gave himself as a sacrifice, we are now free from the condemnation of the law. This means we can now fulfill the law through the power of Christ in us. My obedience to God is, therefore, not legal in that I am trying to keep a law, but, instead is based in love for, and empowered by, God and the Holy Spirit because of Jesus. The law could never give us a love for God, although a love for God is the only way to keep the law. However, when we see what God did in Christ, our only response is to be overwhelmed by his love and, thus, want to please him. Thus, we see we do not keep the law to be righteous because he is the righteous one. We must know that living under his grace does not mean the standard has been lowered. On the contrary. It has been raised. We know what he has done, we have experienced the love of Christ. So, our response should be full submission to the God who loved us enough to save us.


Day 2

The Golden Calf – Exodus 32 – 34 

Chapter 32 opens with Moses’ conspicuous absence and an attempt to find a replacement for God. Moses has been gone some forty days, and the people are unsure about the delay. The people want Aaron to make them an idol and he agrees. He fashions for them a calf made from the gold taken when the people left Egypt. Meanwhile up on the mountain, God reveals to Moses what is going on back at the camp. The people may have taken their mind off God, but he is certainly mindful of them!

 Moses pleads with God and then heads down to the people. When he sees what is going on, he, too, is angry. Moses destroys the idol, confronts the people, and then returns to God to intercede again. The chapter closes with God promising to stay faithful, and present, with the people. There are three very important things to consider in this account. First, how do we handle God’s delay? It’s easy to criticize the Israelite people for losing faith, but we all have done the same. Do we draw closer to him or turn to our own strength/ idols? Second, we must remember the language used here may be a little tricky. Any time the Bible refers to something God does as something like what man does (like God walks or God remembers or God changed his mind), that is a literary device known as an anthropomorphism to help us understand better what is happening. If the Bible described how God actually thought or acted, we wouldn’t be able to understand. His thoughts are above ours. For example, God does not need to remember because he does not forget. God never changes his mind because he knows what will be done before it is done. God knew he was not going to destroy the Israelite people. He was, however, intent on developing Moses into having a heart of love and mercy, like his own. God was also intent on letting his judgment draw his people to himself. Finally, we see a picture of Jesus. When Moses returns the second time, he asks God to deal with the people in mercy and grace. He does not try to belittle the people’s sin. He knows it’s huge. He still pleads with God. If God will not show mercy, then Moses wants to be blotted out with the people. This sacrificial heart is the same heart that Jesus had in dying for our sins (2 Cor. 5:21).

After the sin of the golden calf, God did not deny the Israelite people the promised land. However, he did make it clear that his close presence would not go with them. If they were satisfied with that arrangement, it would prove the people only loved God’s blessings and not God himself. If they challenged God – pleading with him for his presence, not only his blessings – it would show a genuine heart for God himself. The people are sad and do mourn, an important indication of their repentance and need for him. We must think about how we act here. Do we only want God for what he can do for us? Do we merely want God for His gifts or do we desire the giver? Do we use God or do we love Him? While the people mourn, Moses is busy turning his tent into a place where the people who want God and his presence may come. His presence certainly does show up there! In fact, everything Moses does in this chapter is to have the presence of God for the people. He prays for the presence of God. He makes it clear that if God will not give the people his presence they might as well not go any further. Without him, nothing else matters. Without God, there is nothing that differentiates us from the world around us. God decides, in mercy, to have his presence go with the people. He did that then, and did it again when the presence of God was made flesh among his people in the coming of Christ. Moses continues to push further even after God agrees to give his presence. Moses even goes as far as wanting to see God face to face. God decides to reveal his nature and presence to Moses but only in a way he can handle. No man can see God face to face and live. Moses is only able to see the passing of God, the after effects of his glory.

After their great sin with the golden idol, Moses interceded for Israel, Israel repented, and God restored his close presence. It was appropriate to give them new stone tablets. So, God called Moses, and Moses only, back up to receive the new tablets. Before talking about the covenant or the new tablets, God reveals his character (vs. 6-7). We see God is full of compassion, gracious, extremely patient (or long suffering), merciful, forgiving of sin, and righteous (meaning if someone turns from his love and forgiveness, God is just to punish and that punishment will have repercussions). Moses not only hears these words, but has experienced them already. Moses’s response is to worship God. This should always be our response when we see who God is and the love he has for us. Moses also asks this goodness to be extended to him. Again, this is a natural response. When we see the love and mercy of God, we should not hesitate to ask for it. God then goes on to make a covenant that can be summed up as follows: I will be your God and you will be my people. This means his people are to be set apart, different from those around them. They are to totally commit themselves to the Lord and the Lord alone. Moses is miraculously sustained for forty days of no food and water while he records the law. He then returns to his people with the new tablet and his face aglow with God’s glory.

Day 3

Joshua succeeds Moses – Joshua 1

Joshua Moses us beyond the books of the law and into the history of God’s people Israel. We begin that history by following Joshua and his leadership of the Israelite people into the Promised Land. This chapter begins with a command to Joshua to be strong and courageous. Joshua had been called by God, prepared by service alongside Moses, and now placed in a leadership position. However, Joshua clearly has a fear or weakness if a command to be strong and courageous needs to be given. God calls Joshua to be strong and courageous not because of his abilities or leadership skills. No. God calls him to be fearless because God will be with him. Whatever God calls Joshua (and the people) to accomplish, God will be right there accomplishing his will through his people. This is important for us to remember. God has called us all to something. He has been preparing us and leading us to those things. When we face these things, whether they be obstacles, difficult choices, or gospel related work, we must not fear. Our God, who has called us and is preparing us, will be right there with us. We do not need self-confidence but God-confidence. We can have this confidence because what God accomplished – and still accomplishes! – through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ our true Joshua who will lead us into the promised land.


Day 4

Crossing the Jordan – Joshua 3 and 4
This chapter describes the instructions for crossing into the Promised Land that were given to Joshua and Israel. Israel approached the Jordan during flood season and the river was overflowing onto the banks. It was physically impossible to cross. Yet, God called Joshua, the priests, and the Israelite people to have faith in him. The ark, the visible representation of God’s presence, would go before the people. Where those carrying the ark put their feet, they would find dry ground. Thus, Joshua, the priests, and the people had faith. The people walked toward the Jordan, with the priests and the ark ahead of them, and the waters stood still. Not only did the waters stop flowing but the ground was made dry. Just as he had delivered their ancestors from the bondage of Egypt with a miracle, God now delivers them into the Promised Land with another miracle. The ark of the covenant points forward to the miracle of God’s presence with us in Jesus. Just like the ark, Jesus is “God with us.” Just like the ark cleared the way for the Israelites, Jesus’s death on the cross cleared the way for us. As we keep our eyes on Jesus, who goes before us, and continue following him, there is nothing that will be impossible.

This chapter describes the completion of the crossing of the Jordan and the memorials erected there. Joshua and the Israelite people set up two memorials and the truth behind these memorials has an application for us. While the priests stood in the Jordan with the ark, Joshua set up a stone memorial on the dry ground (thus, when droughts occurred the people would see the memorial and remember God’s faithfulness). A representative from each of the twelve tribes took a stone from the dry Jordan, carried it to Gilgal, and Joshua set up another memorial there as well. The purpose of these memorials is explained in the text. These memorials were to be a reminder to the Israelite people of the great things that were accomplished. This did not mean that the Israelite people were to look back longingly, but instead look back, be strengthened, and move forward. They were also to be teaching tools in telling the children of the next generation about God. The truth is that we have a memorial that is meant to do the same. For God’s people, the future is filled with confident assurance because the past is filled with God’s saving faithfulness. We can look back at the cross, take strength from the sacrifice, and remember God’s faithfulness and look ahead in hope. Then, we should tell others about the good news and move forward in obedience to carry out his perfect will.


Day 5

The Fall of Jericho – Joshua 5 and 6

After the setting up of memorials in chapter 4, there are two more works (circumcision and Passover) performed by God at Gilgal in this chapter. First, God calls the Israelite men to be circumcised. Circumcision was a covenant sign of consecration, of setting oneself apart and identifying with God’s people. It was dying to self and living for God. All of the Israelite men who were circumcised were of the previous generation and had passed away in the wilderness. Now, God was commanding the people to do something radical. Here, the Israelite people are crossing the Jordan very near to Jericho (the most fortified city in the area). The enemy was afraid at what God had done and was very vulnerable. Instead of attacking now, God commands the Israelite people to incapacitate all of their fighting men (for a long period of time). The Israelite people obeyed and did so with great faith. At any moment, Jericho could have come, attacked, and easily defeated all of the recovering men. God knew for the people to win the physical war that would come they would have to embrace their own weakness and trust in God. This was what he was doing by having them remember their redemption and keep the Passover as well. The same is true for us. God’s strength is always made perfect in our weakness. By submitting to Jesus as Lord, and obediently carrying out his will, we will be victorious.

Finally, the task that the people of Israel are called to in this chapter is no longer preparatory. It is time to begin conquering the Promised Land. The first stop on this conquering tour is the city of Jericho. Jericho was well fortified and known for its tremendous walls. The Lord instructs Joshua to have the people, priests (with horns), and the ark to march around the city one per day for six days. On the seventh day, the people were to march around the wall seven times and the priests were to blow the horn. Joshua conveys the battle plan and the people obey. Can you imagine what the people thought? On day 1 did they feel excited to be pursuing God’s plan? On day 2 were they worried about a possible attack from those on the wall? On day 3 were they starting to feel silly? On day 4 were they wondering if they should try something else? On day 5 did they begin to realize this plan (and victory) fully relied on God and no battle plan of men? On day 6 did they realize that they must persevere just a little longer, that they were close to seeing victory? How many times do these question look similar to our own thoughts and feelings when God calls us to something? Sometimes we are excited, or scared, or thinking of trying something else, or frustrated/tired to the point of wanting to quit. I say to you: whatever day it is in your march, in your obstacle or thing you are called to for God, trust in the Lord. He called you to this season for a reason. Trust in him, be obedient to his instructions, and persevere. Trust in and lean on him. He will not fail you.