September 18

Psalm 79 / Read

This psalm paints a vivid picture of the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 597 BC. This moment was one of the most significant in Israel’s history and came to stand as a symbol of the consequence for their disobedience.

  • Read the entire psalm through, paying careful attention to the language and imagery. What 3 words would you use to describe what the author is going through?

  • Is there anything about this passage to which you can relate? If so, why?

  • Re-read vv. 8-13. How did the psalm writer pray to God? What about his words most grabs your attention?

Spend a few moments in quiet reflection, asking God to show you what from this psalm is relevant for your life. Is it something about how you think, how you process difficult times or how you act in the face of adversity? Is it something else? Record your answer.

Then consider how it is that you will put into practice what you learned. What has to change? Is there something you need to start doing or stop doing? How will you partner with God as you take action?

September 17

Exodus 24 / Read

The ceremony described in today’s reading culminated all that took place between God and the Israelites since the beginning of Exodus Chapter 19. It was the final confirmation of their covenant relationship and a moment filled with grace, peace, hope and wonder.

God had declared who he was, had told the people who they were, had given them the Law as the terms for life in his kingdom, and had demanded their obedience in return for the love that he promised them. To all of this, the people responded, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.” (vv. 3; see also vv. 7)

Then, in dramatic fashion, both the altar of God and the people of God were sprinkled with the blood of animal sacrifices (vv. 6, 8). In the Old Testament, animals were sacrificed to atone for sin. God, who is holy and just, cannot associate with sin and must punish it. Sacrifices, therefore, filled the gap between God and humans caused by their sin, suffering the death that was due them for their disobedience. Shed blood was proof that one life had been given for another, that justice had been served and that grace had been shown to those still living.

The blood on the altar was the symbol to the people that they could once again approach God; the blood on the people was the symbol that sin had been paid for and they were reunited with God.

Finally, Moses and the leaders of Israel went into God’s presence and communed with him over a ceremonial meal. Incredibly, they saw God and experienced his glory up close.

The beauty of this moment is undeniable and is what our hearts long for - to be free from sin, to be in God’s presence, to know his love and his commitment to us, and to have hope that we, too, will remain committed to him.

For those who follow Jesus, this moment serves as a foreshadow of what would ultimately be ensured with the Cross. The truth is that God’s people, as hard as they tried, could never keep the terms of the Old Covenant. Another trip to the altar for another animal sacrifice would always be necessary.

God couldn’t stand it. He couldn’t stand the separation from his people. So, he again met with his people, not on a mountain called Sinai but on a hill called the Skull (“Golgotha”, see John 19:17). This time the sacrifice for sin was a person, an unblemished Lamb, the Son of God, the man Jesus.

A New Covenant was confirmed on the Cross. The terms of the relationship didn’t change, but the way to them did. No longer would they be dependent on our performance, but on his performance - the one person who lived in perfect obedience to the Father. Faith in Jesus is the way to life in the New Covenant and the symbol is his body and blood, broken and shed “to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)

  • Take some time to allow your mind and heart to rest in God’s Word. Let go of your agenda and invite him to speak to you.

  • What is grabbing your attention? Why?

  • How is God leading you to respond to him? What will it look like to be obedient to what he’s saying to you?

September 16

Exodus 23:20-33 / Read

From the beginning of Exodus 20 through verse 19 of Exodus 23, we have read of the commands (the Law) God gave to his people as part of his covenant with them. Covenant is a major theme that runs throughout the Bible.

A covenant is a binding agreement between two parties that defines their relationship to one another, including the responsibilities each party has for maintaining the relationship. In simple terms, there were two types of legal treaties (covenants) in the ancient world: bilateral - those between two equal parties - and unilateral - those between a king and his subjects. Today’s reading reinforces that the covenant between God and his people has always been unilateral.

God is the one who initiates, the one who saves, the one who gives life and sustains life. He is the one who needs nothing from people, yet who desires to express his great love to and through a people of his own.

Consider today’s reading:

  • How many “I” statements does the Lord make? Reflect on each one.

  • What was he promising his people?

Then consider:

  • What was he expecting in return?

Because of his position over and above humanity, God has the authority to set the terms of his covenant relationship with us. We will always be tempted to believe that the terms are unfair. We may become put off and upset with “If you do what I say” because of the sin in us that feeds our desire to be our own masters. Instead, we must learn to see that fulfilling our commitment to him through obedience ensure that we will possess his promises: blessings of guidance (vv. 20) and protection (vv. 22), that he will fight for us (vv. 23) and make us flourish (vv. 25-26).

Take time today to reflect on your relationship with the Lord and identify what it is that he is saying to you.

  • How has God worked/been present in your life so far this year? What good things has he given you/done for you that you didn’t even ask for?

  • What is motivating your obedience (or lack of obedience) to the Lord? Do you tend to believe that obedience is more of a requirement or a response to receiving God’s love?

  • Jesus’ covenant relationship with God the Father is perfect. On the Cross, we see him living out perfect obedience motivated by deep trust that God loved him and had him no matter what. In the Spirit, followers of Jesus share his identity and have access to his power to obey. Do you believe that? If so, how will it change how you relate to God? Where do you need Christ’s strength to obey?

September 11

Proverbs 15 (Part 1) / Read

We will read and reflect on Proverbs 15 twice this week. In our first reading today, pay particular attention to the verses that deal with words and speech.

  • Write down all of the verses that deal with how the wise and the foolish use their words. What most grabs your attention about this list?

  • According to this passage and your own experience, what power do words have - both what is said and how it is said?

  • Consider your own life and way of speaking. Do your words tend to be more of a blessing or curse to those around you? Why do you answer the way you do? What do you sense God saying to you as you answer that question?

Spend some time praying with the Lord. Invite him to guide you in the following: What would it look like for you to become a person whose words are consistently a blessing to those around you? What effort do you need to make to become this sort of person? What do you need to let God do in you?

September 10

Exodus 23:1-9 / Read

  • Take a moment to identify the commands in this passage that ensure justice. Then identify the commands that promote mercy.

  • What is God revealing to you about himself through this passage?

  • What from this passage relates to your life right now?

  • How do you sense God leading you to live differently in light of this passage? What help is he offering you so that you don’t have to do it on your own?

September 9

Exodus 22 / Read

Today, we continue reading the laws that God gave his people through Moses. Read through the entire chapter once and take note of what most grabs your attention. Then consider the following:

  • What does today’s reading reveal about God?

  • Imagine for a moment that you are a person hearing God’s law for the first time. How would you describe your initial reaction to it? (e.g. encouraged, secure, anxious, burdened) Why?

A false understanding of Christianity is “obey God so that he’ll love you.” This leads to a performance-based, transactional relationship with him. As we’ve seen throughout Exodus, however, God’s love for his people was constant and independent of their allegiance to him. He wanted them, pursued them and rescued them whether they were walking with him or away from him.

In truth, Christianity encourages people to “obey God because he loves you.” He’s proven that he’s devoted to you no matter what and he’s shown you the way to life - so walk in it. Doing so is proof that you trust him and one way that you can love him in return.

  • What place do God’s laws have in your life? In other words, to what degree do you allow God to shape how you live?

  • Be honest: Do you tend to see obedience as the way to get God or as a response to God?

Spend some time in prayer with the Lord. Invite him to lead you to the one thing he wants you to take away from today’s reading. What do you sense him saying to you?

September 6

Exodus 21:12-36 / Read

The Law that God gave to Moses and the people of Israel reveals his heart for justice. Surely the rights of the privileged and powerful will always be preserved, but what of the poor and the weak? What of those cannot speak for themselves? Sadly, the sin of mankind can tempt us to elevate one person and dismiss another, thereby promoting injustice.

God emphatically says no to that way of living. No matter how someone’s rights were compromised and no matter who was involved, God demanded justice. Verses 23 and 24 serve as a summary of the rest of the passage: “Take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”

How do you react to this standard of justice? How do the specific penalties hit you? How do they impact how you view God?

We must remember, of course, that God started his Law not with penalties, but commands. The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-21) are concise in presentation and comprehensive in application; simple, straight-forward statements that cover every situation in which we could ever find ourselves. If we believed that God is good, if we trusted that his ways were right and were eager to obey him, no penalties would be necessary. Life would be just for all.

God’s penalties for breaking his laws reveal the seriousness of our sin. They wake us up to our selfish tendencies, to our greed and favoritism and violence. They make clear our need to something - or someone - to save us from ourselves.

Jesus on the cross is the greatest act of justice the world has ever known. As God’s wrath was poured out without restraint on him, the sin of the world was put on the stand and declared guilty. Every penalty for every wrong thought, word or action was paid in full. Justice was served for us in him.

  • As you reflect on today’s reading and the commentary above, what do you sense God saying to you? Look for a word about his identity or your identity.

  • After doing so, try to determine an appropriate response to what he’s saying to you. What will it look like for you to obey him?

September 5

Exodus 21:1-11 / Read

As we read previously, God’s commandments are a gift to his people. He did not leave them to wander through life with no definition of truth or put on them the weight of defining right and wrong for themselves. God’s commands make clear the way of life and he has given them freely to his people.

It is easy for us to misinterpret today’s passage and miss what God is saying to us because of the ways in which slaves and women have been abused and dehumanized throughout history. In truth, the commands in the text show us God’s intention to protect vulnerable members of society and ensure for them opportunities to flourish.

In the ancient world, slavery and servanthood often served as alternatives to facing the difficulties of life alone. Food, shelter, clothing and even family were not guaranteed. Each had to be worked hard for and provided by oneself or the family unit of which a person was part. A family business could go under after a year or two of poor harvests. What, then, would you do for yourself or your children with no bank to take out a loan? Slavery and servanthood became the answer for those seeking stability and protection in challenging circumstances.

God knew the hearts of men and women, though, and he knew that those who willfully offered themselves as slaves were entrusting themselves to others who would be tempted to take advantage of them. We see in today’s passage how God’s commands were a preemptive guard against such behavior.

  • What about this passage most grabs your attention? Why?

  • To what degree do you believe that God’s commands are intended for your good? If you have trouble believing that, why?

  • Which of God’s commands are most difficult for you to trust in and live out? Why? What do you sense God saying to you as you reflect on your answers to those questions?

  • In what specific way do you sense God leading you to respond to his word to you today?

September 4

Proverbs 14:1-19 / Read

  • Which of the proverbs in today’s reading most grabs your attention? Why?

  • Take another look at vv. 2. What do you think it means to fear God? How does this verse inform all of the others in this passage? (It may be helpful to reference yesterday’s Daily Reading from Exodus 20 as you consider your response.)

  • To what degree do you allow God to inform and direct your decisions? How does your view of God impact your answer to that question?

  • Take some time with God to think through the plans you have for today and the rest of the week (vv. 8). Ask him to purify your motives and guide your actions. As you do, what comes to your mind? Does anything about your plans need to change?

September 3

Exodus 20 / Read

Even for those of us who are not yet believers, the Ten Commandments have a certain familiarity in our part of the world. But how do you read them? More importantly, how do you receive them?

Just as building plans show the way to construct a house, so do the Ten Commandments show the way to construct a life. Of course, a builder has the freedom to set aside the plans, but then he or she is limited to his or her own experience and works with the risk of unexpected circumstances. The weight of success or failure rests on him or her alone.

So it is with us. Because of his great love, God has given people the gift of his commands and invited them to walk in them. He is the architect of our bodies and our souls and knows exactly what is required for each to flourish. We, too, like a builder, have the freedom to follow his plans or not. But if we don’t, are we prepared for the risks? What happens if the lives we choose to build leave us empty and alone?

The terms of God’s covenant were set: He loved his people, he set them free and he established the way of life that would keep them free. In turn, they were to remember who he was, love him in return and remain obedient to his commands.

  • Re-read vv. 1-17. Be honest: How do you receive God’s commands? Do they feel limiting or freeing? Do they feel easy or hard? Take a moment to consider why you answered those questions the way you did.

  • How does obedience convey love? First, consider this question as it relates to today’s passage and God’s relationship with the people of Israel. Then consider it in your own life. Where does it play out in your relationships with other people? In your relationship with God?

Close your time with God’s word by praying with him. Remember that he is the same God we just read about in Exodus 20: all-loving and all-powerful; the one who owes nothing to no one and yet gives good gifts; above all and endless and yet attentive to your every word.

  • What is he saying to you about your relationship with him?

  • Have you strayed from any of his commands? Do you believe that his forgiveness and grace is on the other side of your confession and repentance?

September 2

Exodus 19 / Read

This was an incredible moment for God’s people. It was a moment in which God confirmed his special relationship with them and called them to represent him by receiving and obeying his commands. It was a moment in which they wouldn’t just hear from God, but they would see him descend on Mount Sinai. They were going to experience him like they never had before.

God showed his people that he was fulfilling the covenant he had made with them generations prior in the life of Abraham (see Genesis 15 and 17 and the Daily Readings from March 14 and 19, respectively). He promised Abraham that he would have a child of his own and that the descendants of his family would be too numerous to count. Now those descendants stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, having grown from a family into tribes and waiting to be made into a nation.

The earthly realities of the Old Testament are not simply historical events for those who believe. They also serve as pictures of the spiritual realities that unfold in the New Testament because of Jesus Christ.

Peter, an eyewitness to Jesus and one of his first followers, would write to 1st-Century Christians: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” (1 Peter 2:9) These words are nearly identical to those God spoke to Moses about the people of Israel in today’s reading (see vv. 5-6).

This connection makes two things clear to us: First, Abraham’s descendants - that is, the people of God - are a spiritual family that anyone can be part of through faith in Christ. Second, God’s people are always called to be holy - that is, “set apart” or different from the rest of humanity because of their obedience to God’s commands.

  • To what degree do you understand God’s commands for how his people are to live? Have you ever read his commands for yourself? (Exodus 20-23 and Matthew 5-7 are helpful starting points.)

  • In what way(s) have you experienced God most significantly in your life? More specifically, how has he found you when you weren’t looking for him and rescued you when you couldn’t help yourself?

  • To what degree is your life a testimony to who God is to you? Is there any way in which God is calling you to greater obedience? What will it take for you to do so?