Bible reading for Feb 26: Exodus 9; Luke 12.
"But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die." (Exodus 9:4)
The plagues continue, but with a difference (Ex 9:4). "The Lord will make a distinction..." Much of Egypt will suffer in the succeeding plagues, but the land of Goshen, where Israel dwells, will be spared. The theme of division, or separation, is a key theme throughout Scripture. Before God fills the earth (Gen 1) he first separates: light from dark, sky from water, land from sea. And then he fills it with good creatures. God separates Seth from Cain, Noah from the pre-flood world, Abraham from Chaldea, Lot from Sodom, and now Israel from Egypt. Later it will be the church taken out from all the nations.
Separated to the Lord. This has great bearing upon our life and behavior. A little later on we will read, "You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine" (Lev 20:26; see Ex 19:5, 6; 1 Pet 1:14-16). God's people are to be different. Not different for the wrong reasons, such as being merely odd or eccentric, irritable, self-righteous, or narrow for narrowness' sake. But different in the right way: being God-centered, righteous, merciful, showing honor and respect, having pure and truthful speech, fulfilling our vows, living in a simple, humble, and thankful manner, as sojourners in this world. There are only two destinies, and only two ways of living (Matt 25:46; 2 Cor 6:14-18; Rev 21:6-8). See post below on Luke 12 for more ways we believers are called to be different from the world.
Humbled before God's glory (Ex 9:16). "But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth" (9:16). Pharaoh, like Nebuchadnezzar many centuries later, might be tempted to say what that king of Babylon said, "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?" (Dan 4:30) How shocking it must have been for Pharaoh to realize, if he ever did, that he was given an empire with all its power and glory for the ultimate purpose of being torn down, his pride humbled, and the glory of God exalted: "...I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth" (9:14). In God's sight all the world empires are like so many Lego castles which stand for a little while, only to be broken apart and thrown back into the box. God alone is God. (See Isa 40:15; Rom 9:17.)
Good news. We see the beginnings of faith, or at least reverence for the Lord, on the part of many Egyptians (9:20). With advance warning of the massive hail storm, people bring their livestock into shelter and are spared. They are taking God at his word! By the end of the plagues many from the Egyptian population will be very favorable toward the Israelites.
"Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three." (Luke 12:51-52)
Division (Luke 12). This may be a surprising statement from Jesus: "I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! ... Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division" (12:49, 51). But is this not a continuation of the biblical theme mentioned above, beginning in Genesis and Exodus, and proceeding onward through biblical history? It is not our separating ourselves from the world which brings salvation, but God saves us (it is his glorious work) and separates us for himself, ultimately to be like him. We seek to live up to our new identity as children of the true and living God.
A different lifestyle. The Lord Jesus teaches many ways here in chapter 12 by which we live differently from the surrounding world. We forsake all hypocrisy and false teaching (12:1-3). We do not fear the things that people without hope fear; we deal with anxiety differently (12:4-7, 22-32). We can have courage to speak boldly of Christ through the Holy Spirit (12:8-12). We shun covetousness and materialism (12:13-21). We are future-oriented, in that we look to the return of Christ and are preparing to meet him (12:32-40). We seek to be faithful in stewardship of our time, talents, and possessions, and avoid laziness, gluttony, and drunkenness (12:41-48). We are discerning of "the times" (12:54-56). And finally, we know the urgent need for reconciliation, not only between us and God, but between us and others (12:57-59). Wow, this is so much deeper than keeping a few rules for decency!
The early church. Let me quote from an anonymous writer from the early second century (c. AD 130) about Christians in the Roman world. The Epistle to Diognetes says this about how early Christians were different from the rest of the world...
For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.
They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all others; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and restored to life. They are poor yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things and yet abound in all; they are dishonored and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of and yet are justified; they are reviled and bless; they are insulted and repay the insult with honor; they do good yet are punished as evildoers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred. To sum it all up in one word -- what the soul is to the body, that is what Christians are in the world.
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.