Devotions

Author Archives: John Hubbard

3,000 Dead

Broken Tablets | Devotion 6: 3,000 Dead
John Hubbard

I noticed something that I never noticed before in the story of the golden calf at Mount Sinai. I remember that Moses was so mad when he got back that he threw the tablets down and broke them. I remember that he melted the calf down, ground it up, sprinkled the gold dust into the water, and made them drink it. However, I did not recall that Moses had all the sons of Levi kill 3,000 of the men right after all of that. The crazy part about that display of violence is that Moses had just pleaded with God a few verses earlier. He pleaded for God to spare them rather than wipe them out for making the calf and being a “stiff-necked people.” However, when Moses comes face to face with their sin, he is forced into action. Exodus 32:30-35 says, “The next day Moses said to the people, ‘You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ So Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.’ But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.’ Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.”

It is hard to believe that Moses would offer himself up in place of the people who have just sinned so greatly against God. Perhaps Moses felt he had dealt with enough of their punishment, and now he could try to persuade God to go easy on the rest of the Israelites. I cannot help but feel like Moses is coming to God and saying, “Hey God, I dealt with this sin in my people. Really, I have handled it. Are we good?” In a surprisingly, gentle way, God tells Moses that justice will always be brought by God alone, and it will always come exactly how and when He decides. Moses brought his own justice by way of the Levites, but God blots them out of His book and later on brings a plague to them. How many times do we try and play God when people close to us sin? We are instead called to love and point people to Jesus. We can leave justice to God.

Standing on the Promises

Water, Manna, & Quail | Devotion 2: Standing on the Promises
John Hubbard

The Israelites up and down relationship with the Lord in the Old Testament is so fascinating to me. The Israelites witnessed incredible miracles from God so many times but then were so quick to turn from Him and chase false gods. They would eventually return to God and experience these incredible spiritual moments with God, but no matter how much He manifested His power to them, they always seemed so quick to doubt Him when faced with any trials or even when they just got “bored.” Looking through the Old Testament, you can see this pattern repeated seemingly countless times. It is easy to read this and disconnect yourself from the story. It is easy to read this, shake your head, and think, “Man, these guys were such idiots.” It is easy to read about the Israelites making the same mistakes over and over and feel that this story is a bit redundant, but we know that all Scripture is God-breathed. Every line, every verse, and every word is placed there intentionally by Almighty God. In 1 Corinthians 10:11 (NKJV), Paul says, “Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition.”  I have read over Exodus 15:22-27 so many times and never really paid much attention to it or tried to thoughtfully consider what God’s purpose was in inspiring Moses to write it.

At first glance, this seems pretty par for the course for Israel if you are familiar with the pattern of the Israelites. The passage finds the Israelites in the wilderness, they had been walking for three days, there were somewhere around two million of them, and they were running out of water. They come to a place called Marah and found water there, but the water was bitter and undrinkable. The people were desperate and started grumbling against Moses. Moses cried out to the Lord for help, the Lord gave Moses instructions (which Moses followed), and God made the water drinkable for the people. It is important to notice the context surrounding this passage. The Israelites had just experienced God’s miraculous and powerful parting of the Red Sea that saved them and destroyed the Egyptians who were attempting to bring them back into captivity. The beginning of chapter 15 is a beautiful song of praise about God’s glory and power. They are singing and praising their wonderful God who rescued them, and then a couple of days later, they have completely lost faith and are grumbling against God’s faithful servant who was leading them.

Are we like the Israelites? In a sermon Pastor Josh preached during the prayer series (titled “Temptation”), he talked about how after we experience these spiritual highs, these mountain top moments with God, we often then will face trials or temptations. This was true for Jesus after His baptism, where the people heard the audible voice of God, declaring that Jesus was His Son. Jesus was then immediately tempted by the devil. The Israelites had just experienced the incredible parting of the Red Sea where God powerfully showed that they were His people that He loved and would protect them. Yet, just a few days later when they were faced with hardships, they despaired. Let us not fall into the same trap the Israelites did. God never promised us that life as a follower of Him would be easy. In fact, He promised the opposite. In John 16:33 (NIV), Jesus states, “In this world you will have trouble.”

What God promises is that He will be faithful (1 Corinthians 10:13: Hebrews 10:23).  He promises that He has overcome the world (John 16:33). He promises that He will never leave us in times of trouble (Matthew 28:20: Deuteronomy 31:6: Isaiah 41:10). Next time you feel that you are entering into the wilderness and are stuck in the land of bitter water, next time you feel desperate and do not know how to respond, please remember what you know to be true. He is faithful, He cares for you, and He has not left your side no matter how alone you may feel.

The First Plague

Ten Plagues | Devotion 1: The First Plague
John Hubbard

The life of Moses is a fascinating one. Today I want to take a look into a moment in his life. If you read Exodus 7:14-25, you will read the account of the first of the ten great plagues to hit Egypt. This was a huge moment for Moses. He met Pharaoh outside in a very public place and told him again that God commanded him to let His people leave. When Pharaoh refused, Aaron and Moses had faith and followed God’s direction, and the Lord turned the entire Nile River into blood.

I think that because I grew up in the church and have heard these stories all my life that I was desensitized to some of them. As I studied this passage of Scripture this week, it dawned on me what a horrific event this must have been for the Egyptians, and also how God sent a clear and terrifying message to them. The Egyptians at this time viewed the Nile River almost like a god. They worshipped it; it was the lifeblood of Egypt. It provided much of their food, and it was sacred to their god, Osiris. The God Almighty of the Hebrews wreaking havoc on this powerful river must have been a terrifying feat. All of the fish in it died. They could no longer drink from it. Imagine a river of this size flowing in the dark, striking color of blood and think about how much fear that would create in the heart of these people.

I also do not think it is a coincidence that earlier in Exodus (Exodus 1:22), Pharaoh had heartlessly murdered the male infants of Israel and threw them into the Nile. When the plagues hit, the very first one is a gross display of God showing that He has control of the Nile and all that is in it. If you do some research in the coming days and read some commentaries (which I strongly encourage you to do), you will find that when the plagues descend on Egypt, in a way it is God going to battle against the gods of Egypt and proving His power over them. Many of the plagues were direct attacks showing His power over specific Egyptian gods.

Let us never forget that we serve a powerful, holy God who will go to battle for His people and who will make His name great. There is no other like Him. Our God is the same God who turned the Nile River to blood in an instant. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We need to go into this week with a sense of awe and wonder that we serve and are loved by the Almighty God.

Jeremiah 10:6 says, “There is none like You, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might.”

Zephaniah 3:17 adds, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Possibilities

Forgive | Devotion #6: Possibilities
John Hubbard | Worship Leader

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

In a sermon preached in 1869, Charles Spurgeon spoke on this verse. This verse is incomprehensible in my mind. Jesus is experiencing brutal pain and suffering and is still thinking of those harming Him. In his sermon, “The First Cry from the Cross,” Spurgeon makes several points that hit me hard. First, even in His darkest hour, Jesus never stopped praying. When teaching the disciples to pray, Jesus referred to God as “Our Father.” That did not change when He was experiencing extreme hardship. He knew that even when He was facing the worst circumstances, God Almighty was still a loving Father and He addressed Him as so. 

Next, when crying out in prayer, Jesus did not pray for Himself. He prayed for others. Not only did He pray for others, but He prayed for those who were brutally murdering Him. It is the most unselfish prayer. He did not pray, “Father, please take me off this cross! Father, take me out of these circumstances!” He prayed and begged God the Father to forgive these people. Jesus loved people. Jesus died for people. Jesus died for all people. He was “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 KJV), including those who were crucifying Him.  

The Bible tells us to do hard things. One of those hard things the Bible tells us to do is to love our enemies. Jesus said, “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 KJV). Another hard thing the Bible tells us to do is to continue praying despite our circumstances, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ, Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). I am grateful for our Savior who gave us beautiful examples of how to do some of the hard things the Bible tells us to do. We are only human, loving those who are hurting us and keeping an eternal perspective during hard times can feel impossible. Matthew 19:26 says, “But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” Next time we find ourselves in difficult circumstances dealing with difficult people, we should pray to our Father (who we know is a good, loving Father), pray for and love our enemies, and ask God to help us with these things that can feel impossible.  

Before the Ages Began

The Gift of Grace | Devotion #6: Before the Ages Began
John Hubbard | Worship Leader

Wrapping our minds around God’s grace is almost impossible. It is this amazing gift that we do not deserve, but that we are given freely. In the Bible, 2 Timothy 1:9 talks about God, “Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” I think we sometimes think of grace as a New-Testament-Jesus-thing. The truth is that God’s grace has been constant “before the ages began.” Way back in the Old Testament, God told the Israelites that He would be gracious to them (Numbers 6:25). If anybody did not deserve grace, it was the Israelites. They had seen God perform many amazing miracles. He had caused the plagues to descend in Egypt, He had led them through the wilderness as a pillar of fire, He had parted the Red Sea, and He had provided food and water for them in the desert. Despite all of these things, despite these visible displays of God’s power, the Israelites repeatedly turned back to their idols and false gods.  

I am grateful that I worship a God who gives the gift of grace freely. He freely gave His grace to the Israelites, and He freely gives His redeeming and saving grace to us. He is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). 

I still remember the first time I heard someone say, “God still loves you, even when you are using.” It was during one of the gatherings we have that is geared toward people who struggle with addictions. I will be honest, it took me by surprise, I had a knee-jerk reaction that I did not agree with that statement, but once I let myself hear the words I knew it was true. God offers His grace to the addict who, like the Israelites, keeps returning to their sin. God offers His grace to the young man or woman who feels crushing guilt from the weight of their past sins. God offers His grace to each and every one us, despite how undeserving we are. If you are open to receive it, God wants to bless you with His gift of salvation through His grace. Just like the Israelites, you are never too far gone to receive God’s grace. Turn back to your Father, repent, and receive His most amazing grace.  



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