Devotions

Six weeks

Water, Manna, & Quail | Devotion 3: Six weeks
Pastor Ryan Story

At this point in society, I am shocked that you cannot get a Ph.D. in complaining. If you spend any time on social media, all you see is people complaining about schools, police departments, roads, neighbors, and even weather. If you stand in line at a grocery store for more than five minutes, you can hear someone complaining from a distance. If the internet goes down, people are complaining. If schools call for a snow day, people are complaining. However, if schools remain open during snowy conditions, people are complaining. If someone’s church is too small, people are complaining. On the flip side, if churches are growing too fast, people are complaining. Ironically while I type this, I realized I am complaining about complainers!

The nation of Israel had a major issue; they complained about everything. The Israelites endured slavery for more than 400 years, and the moment they were free from Pharaoh is the moment God, Moses, and Aaron began to hear grumbling. Exodus 16:1-3 says, “They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’” I am not perfect, and I complain and grumble about certain issues as well; however, I did some research to see how long it took the Israelites to turn against Moses and Aaron. By most scholars’ account, it took the Israelite six weeks to start grumbling! We are one chapter removed from the Israelites singing a song about how God used Moses to free them from Egypt. The Israelites are one chapter removed from hanging out in an oasis paradise with enough water, springs, and palm trees to comfortably encamp the entire nation. It took them six weeks to go from praising to grumbling! It took just six weeks!

Complaining is toxic to our relationships with our children, our friends, our spouses, our church, and even the poor teenage barista that got yelled at today because there was too little cream in their frappe. Above all of that, complaining is horribly damaging to our relationship with God. While God still blessed the nation of Israel and provided for them, it does not take away from the lack of trust the Israelites had in God and in the leadership that God placed over them.

So what do you complain about? Do you think that the mild inconvenience that you are complaining about is outside of God’s control and outside of God’s plan for your life? Yes, that traffic jam was an inconvenience, but maybe it was God giving you 30 minutes to listen to a sermon. That boss of yours might be a difficult person to work with, but I bet dollars to doughnuts you do not complain when you get that paycheck. The music may be too loud for your taste at a weekend gathering, but it helped to get a young 20-year-old connected with the church because of his love for music.

We complain because we do not always see the whole picture. Exodus 16:4 has an amazing phrase that has brought me comfort in the times I want to start complaining. It reads, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am about to..’” While it is important to know that God sent manna down from the sky, the really important thing is that God was doing something. The Israelites could only see from their perspective; they were so focused on the last six weeks they could not see that God was about to do something again. The Israelites were sure that parting the Red Sea was the only miracle; they could not see what God was about to do. So next time you begin to complain, think to yourself; what is God about to do with this?

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.

From Praise to Distress

Water, Manna, & Quail | Devotion 1: From Praise to Distress
Josh Lahring

I like to think that had I seen the Red Sea part open, that I would totally trust God and all His ways and that I would always believe that He will make a way. There is no way there could ever be any doubt after seeing something like that, right? However, this is not the case. I have personally seen God do miraculous works in my own life and yet when another circumstance comes up, I am quick to forget that God was there for me before and He is with me now.

After the Red Sea parted and they had crossed over on dry land, Moses and the people of Israel sang a song to the Lord. At the end of the song, it says, “You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established. The Lord will reign forever and ever” (Exodus 15:17-18).

Moses was proclaiming the promise of God was true! God said He would bring His people into the place which He had made for them. Then only three days later, Moses is crying out to God to save them from death.

Exodus 15:23-25 says, “When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.”

We often think that since we believe the promises of God that He should be there making our path easy. Why was the water not just drinkable when they got there? God knew they were thirsty since they had been in the wilderness for three days without water. Think about if the water had been good to drink right when they got there. Would they even have acknowledged or thanked God for it? No. They would have been happy that they had found the water just in time before they died. God wants us to rely on Him for all our needs totally. He wants us to cry out to Him and need Him more than anything else. Then when He moves, we will fully realize that it was only through Him that a way was made and that He is the only one that deserves all the glory!

To God be the glory!

#NOTMYJESUS

Red Sea | Devotion 6: #NOTMYJESUS
Max Sinclair

“Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.” Exodus 14:30-31

With this study of Exodus, we get to see a lot of aspects of the Lord that we may not have wanted to see. We see His divine election of the people of Israel as His Holy Nation, we see the casting down of the gods of Egypt and the Lord’s divine authority through the plagues, and we see the Lord’s Power over His creation as He parts the Red Sea. All of this, however, some would argue, is not in character of the God in the New Testament who is rich in love and slow to anger, or even His Son the second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, who did not come to condemn the world but to save it.

Now this Devotion is going to be very pointed, some might not like what I have to say or possibly agree with it, but I feel like it needs to be said. God does not care what you think of Him. As Hebrews 13:8 would say, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” We do not get to change that. We do not get to decide who our God is. If we do that, we are worshiping a false idol and an untrue god. Now I will not negate His love, grace, mercy, and amazing irresistibility but at the same time we can never forget that God is just, He is wrath, and He is to be feared.

At this point, the children of Israel feared the Lord. They have seen His just and awesome power displayed to all the world that He is the Lord, the divine authority, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. Even though they see this power of the Lord displayed, in a manner of days, they decide to build a golden idol of a calf and worship that. Is that not what we do as Christians today? Do we not go through a moment of fear and uncertainty only to be reminded of the realness of God and His undeniable sovereignty and then completely forget Him?

When I returned back to civilian life after my four years of service in the United States Navy, I asked Pastor Ryan Story to mentor me. In our meeting, I asked the question, “How could the Israelites forget how awesome and how powerful our God is and worship false gods or idols?” Ryan turned in his chair and with a pen drew a line on his office wall, “In a few weeks you won’t remember that mark was even there. It has become a permanent part of this room.” To my surprise, he was right. The mark became commonplace, it became ever-present and permanent, and I paid it no mind. Now, I am not saying that I should fear the pen mark on a wall in some office at our Holly location, but I am saying that we should fear our complacency with the Lord. God is not some genie that gives us three wishes, nor is He the conveyor belt of Blessings. God, YHWH, Jehovah, Adonai, is the Architect of the Universe, the undeniable sovereign of all creation. With this title and His authority, fear should be given, a total submission should be observed, and praise will be His.

I love you, and I know that the Lord loves you as well, but it is time that we take a realistic approach to the God that we serve. Yes, He is love, and His divine love also has divine justice and wrath. Yes, He will bless you, but He will also punish you. In Francis Chan’s book “Crazy Love,” he states, “I sometimes struggle with how to properly respond to God’s magnitude in a world bent on ignoring or merely tolerating Him. But know this: God will not be tolerated. He instructs us to worship and fear Him.” That is the God whom we serve, and it is about time that we realize that.

Death to Life

Red Sea | Devotion 5: Death to Life
John Rigg

I wonder how many people have seen Charlton Heston’s portrayal of Moses in Cecil B. Demille’s production of “The Ten Commandments” since its opening in 1956? For me, the movie’s climactic scene is when Moses, with staff in hand, raises up his arms and divides the Red Sea. Only then can the enslaved Israelites escape from Pharaoh, and cross over on dry land to their freedom. Once safely on the other side, and with Pharaoh’s soldiers in hot pursuit, Moses again stretches his hand over the sea, and the waters come crashing down upon the Egyptian soldiers.

Recently, I was reading the real-life account of this scene in Exodus 14:26-28 and was reminded of the reality that all the Egyptian soldiers, at least 600, died that day, “…not one of them remained” (verse 28). Although the Israelites were often stubborn and rebellious, they eventually listened to God’s messenger and followed Moses through the parted waters to their new life on the other side. The Egyptians, on the other hand, after repeatedly being warned, refused to hear the words that had been spoken by Moses and entered into the judgment of God.

Of course, for us living today, the message of future judgment is in view here as we read through the account of the Red Sea crossing. Those hearing and believing in God’s provision of eternal life through Jesus Christ will not enter into His judgment but will avoid the condemnation of sin, which is death, and pass to life.

Jesus Himself reaffirms this in John’s New Testament Gospel. John 5:24 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” 

Every time that I watch the movie or read Exodus chapter 14, I cannot help but think of those that will not pass from death to life but will enter into the judgment of a Holy God. Scripture tells us many times that the condemnation into judgment is not of God but of our own choice. John 3:18 says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Ezekiel 18:32 adds, “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”  

Our sin has condemned us all, yet through simple belief in the name of Jesus, judgment can be avoided. I wonder how many of the Egyptian soldiers would have listened to God instead of Pharaoh if they truly understood their final destiny?

I wonder how many of our friends, family, and co-workers might make the decision to follow Jesus if we were to be honest with them about their final destination?

The challenge from Exodus chapter 14 for us should be this. As God’s messengers, how can we be intentional about telling someone that God’s desire for them is to “turn, and live,” and that there is a way to pass from “death to life?”

Remember, not everyone died that day at the Red Sea, only those who heard and refused to listen.

Has everyone you know and love heard?



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