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bible reading feb 25



Bible reading for Feb 25:  Exodus 8; Luke 11.

"Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, 'This is the finger of God.' But Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said." (Exodus 8:19)

Smack-down of the gods.  The Nile River environment provided a unique and usually dependable cycle of seasons for Egypt, and like many peoples in the ancient near east (ANE) the Egyptians deified nature.  A quick glance at their deities show how much they revered the order of nature, with the sun, the river, and all the animals. So the plagues, by disrupting the natural order, demonstrated the impotence of the Egyptian gods to protect Egypt.  In this way the plagues were judgments not only upon the leaders of Egypt, and the people, but also upon their gods (Ex 12:12). The last plague, the death of firstborn males, was especially devastating since the firstborn male heir of Pharaoh was also considered a god. 

Pharaoh behaving badly. The Pharaoh himself, and his varying responses to Moses and the plagues, is an interesting psychological study of what some may call oppositional defiance.  He will not listen to Moses (7:13), he refuses to obey (7:14), and then he breaks off contact and will not think about it (7:23).  But then, at the next plague he asks for prayer and deliverance, and he promises to let God's people go.  But as soon as the crisis is over, he delays and does not follow through on his promise (8:8, 15). At the next plague he appears to soften, but then begins bargaining, and makes qualifications as to his obedience (8:25). And so on.  I hate to admit that at times I act more like Pharaoh than like an obedient child of God. When God's will may seem difficult for me I may hedge, or delay, or conveniently forget about it, or add my conditions or qualifications on obedience.  

One benefit of praying through, and meditating upon, the Lord's prayer is the third petition: "May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt 6:10).  The Heidelberg Catechism (1561) tells us about this:  "The meaning of 'Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven' means, 'Help us and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any back talk.  Your will alone is good. Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to, as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.'" (1988 ed.) Those creatures in heaven, whether angels or humans, who know and see God clearest, have no problem obeying God promptly, freely, fully, and joyfully.  Lord, make this true of all your children!

=================  

"For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." (Luke 11:10) 

Persistent prayer (11:1-13).  Jesus encourages his disciples to pray with persistence (Gr., "shamelessness").  We are to pray freely, boldly, and continuously for what we need.  The begrudging friend mentioned in Jesus' teaching is not meant to be a comparison of God, but rather, if even a begrudging friend at midnight will help us, how much more will our loving Father in heaven come to our aid. Luke records in this version of Jesus' teaching that the Father will give the Holy Spirit in answer. This is the greatest gift we could imagine, greater than mere material things we might need (see Gal 3:14; 4:6; 5:5, 16).    

Confrontation.  Like Moses in Egypt, Jesus also confronts hostile powers, both spiritual and physical.  Luke records a lengthy teaching about demonic possession (11:14-28).  Whether this was more common then than now, or more discernible in the presence of Jesus, the fact remains that this is still an occurrence in many places in the world today.  Some years ago, I met some converted shamans in the Amazon, now Christians, who tell stories of their experiences with evil spirits.  I wonder if the evil spiritual forces in our nation take more subtle form.  Then Jesus confronts the opposition of the scribes and the Pharisees, and pronounces woes on their blindness and hypocrisy (11:37-54).  Here's a point to remember: Just because someone is a religious professional or academic, or a celebrity Christian, or a popular preacher, it does not mean that they know anything about anything at all!  


Image above: an African frog, Xenopus laevis, courtesy Wikipedia. Imagine millions of these, getting in your house, your kitchen bowls, and your beds.     
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.  A PDF copy is available here
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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