Monday, February 22, 2021

February 22 - Exodus 17, Hebrews 9

Key verse: Exodus 17:6

Big idea: God brought water out of the rock. 

We have been tracing the journey of the Israelites for some time now, but let me remind you of a few key points. Israel and his sons were starving to death from a famine in the land of Canaan, and God provided them food through the sin of his sons, who had sold Joseph into slavery, allowing God to position him as the vice-regent of Egypt. As God has promised to Abraham decades earlier, the Israelites entered Egypt for a period of 400 years, until it was time for them to come out. God blessed the nation, and they multiplied until their sheer numbers frightened their Egyptian masters and tried to exterminate them by killing all of the baby boys. By faith, Moses' mother placed Moses in an ark of bulrushes and placed him in the Nile River. The Egyptians worshipped the Nile, and so in a sense one of their chief gods carried the man who would overwhelm their army into the arms of Pharaoh's daughter, saving his life. Moses spent 40 years as the son of Pharaoh's daughter, until he gave it all up to throw in his lot with God's people (Hebrews 11:24-25). But he tried to do it in his own way and his own time, when the time was not yet right. Exposed for killing an Egyptian soldier who was beating a Hebrew, Moses was forced to run away, where he married the daughter of a shepherd and spent the next 40 years of his education in a much more hands-on course of study. God called him from out of a burning bush, and when Moses was afraid to speak, God used his brother Aaron as Moses' mouthpiece, to go to Pharaoh and demand that the people be released. Pharaoh's hard heart made him ask who the Lord was, that He should be obeyed. With ten plagues, showing dominance over all the gods of Egypt and culminating in the death of every firstborn son (the Passover), God brought His people out. 

He led them to the Red Sea and made a way for them to be cared for, then fed them manna in the wilderness - supernatural bread which always came in exactly the quantity they needed exactly when they needed it. The nation had gone into Egypt because of hunger, and God had provided them food indirectly through the Pharaoh of that time. Now, they have left Egypt, and God cut out the middle man: He provided them food directly from Heaven. But in our chapter today, the God who brought them through the water on dry land now needed to bring the people in the dry land water. They grumbled and complained once again, as if the manna was not still stuck between their teeth and the cloud symbolizing God's presence were not before them in a pillar of guidance.  God had Moses strike a rock, which became a well that provided water for them, following them as they traveled. 

We have already considered 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, which compares the Christian life to the saga of the Israelites. They were set apart by the water, like we are set apart by baptism. Today shows us that they ate what Paul calls the same "spiritual" food and drink: manna and the water from the rock. This is not spiritual in the sense of immaterial, but spiritual in the sense that it was provided by the spirit. This corresponds to us too, who eat of Christ's body and drink his blood symbolically in the Lord's Supper. It was "the same" because it showed their community with one another and their dependence on God, like the Lord's Supper is the privilege of the members of a local church. The rock they drank from represented Christ, and followed them providing them what they need wherever they go. When Moses struck the rock, water came out. When the soldiers struck Jesus, water and blood flowed from His side. Both provided the most basic sustenance for God's people, satisfying our thirst.

Discussion idea: How do we, like the Israelites, "judge our circumstances by our stomachs" and grumble like the Israelites did? How does God provide sustenance that goes beyond our physical comfort?

Prayer focus: Lord, help me thirst for You as a deer pants for the water. Help me to see that you are as essential for my life as water was for the Israelites in the hot desert. 

Key Verse: Hebrews 9:26

Big Idea: The Son of God saves us once and for all.

Did you make your bed this morning? How about brush your teeth? Do you ever notice how dishes seem to keep piling up? You may think all of the laundry is done, but you are already wearing the next set of dirty clothes. The truth is that many of the tasks of our daily lives are never really finished and never can be. In a sense, there is never any rest. Is our relationship with God an eternal treadmill like that, where we can stay on if we continue to put in the effort but will fall off the back the moment we let up?

A lot of people think so. They assume that our relationship with God is about continually proving ourselves to Him and eventually doing more good things than bad. But this is not the picture the Bible describes. The Bible says that we can know that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13). That confidence is not possible if it depends on our efforts tomorrow or the next day. It is only possible because the Son of God ascended to Heaven with the perfect sacrifice - Himself - and purged our sins once and for all. There is no never-ending pile of laundry here! What Jesus cleans once is clean forever.

If we try to get to God by our own goodness, we will never have any rest. Worse still, we will never have any success in the first place because the treatment will never be able to get past the surface to the real problem. In fact, by adding in self-righteousness, all of our good works give us more that needs to be cleansed rather than less (Hebrews 9:14). Only one thing will do the job: the blood of Jesus received in faith. 

He died once and for all, so that when we die, we can live with Him. Our sins may keep coming, but His mercy is new every morning. He has provided us with all that we could ever need by His one perfect sacrifice. There is no need for me to keep things running by brute strength or determination because my Savior has saved me to the uttermost. 

Discussion Idea: How would your life be different if every day's sins required more sacrifice? What confidence can we have in knowing that Jesus had made a way for all of our sins to be covered before we were even born?

Prayer Focus: Pray for forgiveness for our own self-righteousness and ask Jesus to help us to trust that His work is good enough for all time.

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