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February 17, Day #48 – God’s Best … or God’s Good?

As always, today’s readings seem to cover such a broad variety of topics that it’s difficult to narrow down our thoughts into a few brief comments that do justice to our topics. The Word of God is such a resource of treasures! Today, in Exodus 19-20, we join the Israelites as they come to Mt. Sinai in their journey. This is a pivotal chapter in Exodus and in their history; the Israelites are about to make a monumental choice that will affect their spiritual direction forever – and true to human form - they are going to make the wrong choice. As God has led them away from Egypt into the wilderness, He has removed them from what they knew (i.e., life in Egypt) and placed them squarely in the middle of what they don’t know (i.e., the unknown life in the wilderness), where He is now going to “test them” (cf., Exodus 16). To this point, the Israelites have been living by God’s grace. Remember that grace is something that God lovingly and freely gives us – apart from any obligation – He doesn’t have to give it to us. In Exodus 15:25, God “showed Moses a piece of wood” that made bitter water sweet (i.e., drinkable). That’s grace. They didn’t earn it; they didn’t deserve it. It’s simply God’s grace. In Exodus 16:4, God “rained down bread from heaven” (i.e., manna). That’s grace. In Exodus 16:13, God “rained down quail.” That’s grace. In Exodus 17:6, God gave the people “water to drink” from a rock. That’s grace. By the way, let’s not be tempted into believing that God gave them all these things because “they whined and grumbled.” In Exodus 17:14, God promised and gave the people victory over the Amalekites certified by a memorial scroll. That’s grace. Now, in chapter 19, also by grace, God brings the Israelites to Mt. Sinai where He reminds them of what He did “for them to Egypt” and how “He carried them on eagles’ wings to Himself” (verses 3-4). He presents to them His promise to make them a “kingdom of priests” (verse 6) – three more evidences of God’s grace to the Israelites. Reminder: God saves by grace, not by law. Law says, “DO or DON’T DO.” Grace says, “simply believe and receive.” How did the Israelites respond to all this grace? “The people all responded together, ‘We will do everything the LORD has said’” (verse 8). However, they will not, they could not, and they did not. No one can keep the law (cf., Romans 3:20-23). The Israelites have just exchanged God’s best (i.e., His grace) for God’s good (i.e., His law). Consequently, what do we find? In Exodus 20:1, “God spoke all these words” – and now they have the Ten Commandments. Under which would you rather live?

In Psalm 22:12-21, I am always literally awestruck by the descriptions of the treatment that Christ suffered for me on the cross. I cannot read it without reference to my own sins which led to His horrible crucifixion, nor without expressing my deepest gratitude to God for His great mercy to redeem through His suffering for my sins. It is mercy beyond all understanding. In this section, we see David’s plea for the LORD to stay near him. Here, David declares human life to be “precious” (i.e., sacred; verse 20). Life is filled with obstacles from which we need protection, and only God can keep us safe and guide us through life’s pitfalls. God hears the prayers of those who seek Him. Notice what David says in verse 29: We are unable “to keep ourselves alive.”

In Mark 1:29 - Mark 2:17, the Pharisees insist upon meddling incessantly in the business of others. This reminds me that I have no business to follow suit, but rather to follow Jesus’ example in His prayer life and to stay “in lonely places” (verse 45), for “He knew what was in men’s hearts” (cf., Mark 2:8; John 2:25). I have found this to be a good practice. In Mark 2, we read that Jesus healed a paralytic, and of course, the teachers of the law wanted to challenge Jesus about His statement that the man’s sins “are forgiven” (verse 5). Jesus tells them that the man’s healing testifies to His authority on earth to forgive sins. In verses 13-17, we see Jesus’ call of Matthew as a disciple, also to the chagrin of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. Some people are always mixing in …

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