Exodus 26

Behind the curtain

“Across the inside of the Tabernacle hang a special curtain made of fine linen, with cherubim skillfully embroidered into the cloth using blue, purple, and scarlet yarn. Exodus 26:31 NLT

I recall that scene in the movie, The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow found themselves in the presence of the mighty Oz. There was smoke and a scary apparition with a booming, intimidating voice demanding  to know the purpose for their visit. They were in awe. They were petrified. They were in the presence of someone mightier than they were. They were afraid for their lives. The Toto happens to sneak behind the curtain and pulls it back to reveal a small man twisting an assortment of knobs and dials, speaking into a large microphone. The “mighty Wizard of Oz was exposed for what he was: a fraud and a charlatan. He was anything but mighty and certainly no wizard.

But as we read the story of the construction of the Tabernacle in Exodus 26, we run across a similar curtain, separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place or the Holy of Holies. This curtain was said to be 4-inches thick and proved a formidable barrier, preventing anyone but the High Priest from coming into the place where the very presence of God dwelt. In it were contained the Ark and the Mercy Seat, but no one was allowed beyond it. No one dared try to go behind it. Out of awe, fear, and respect for the One who dwelt there.

And it was to remain that way for generations – during all the years the Tabernacle existed and throughout the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem. There was no mere man behind this curtain. This was not a sham. It was the holy, all-powerful presence of God Himself. Later in chapter 40 we read that when the Tabernacle was completed, an amazing thing happened. “Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glorious presence of the LORD filled it. Moses was no longer able to enter the Tabernacle because the cloud had settled down over it, and the Tabernacle was filled with the awesome glory of the LORD” (Exodus 40:34-35 NLT). During set-up and construction of the Tabernacle. Moses had been free to go in and out of the Holy of Holies, but now that God had taken up residence, Moses was no longer allowed access. He could not behind the curtain. And neither could anyone else.

But all that was to change. A day was coming when the curtain separating men from God would be removed. Access to the Holy of Holies and the God who dwelt there was going to be opened up once and for all. Mark records the event.  “Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Mark 15:37-38 NLT). As a result of Jesus’ sacrificial, substitionary death on the cross, the wall of separation was removed. “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. This is the new, life–giving way that Christ has opened up for us through the sacred curtain, by means of his death for us. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s people, let us go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him. For our evil consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22 NLT).

We can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. No fear. No apprehension. No condemnation. Christ has opened up for the a way through the sacred curtain by means of His death for us. We can go right into the presence of God with Jesus as our High Priest. We are clean and totally pure because of the blood of Christ. No more barrier. No more isolation. No more separation.

Father, the curtain has been parted. But behind it we don’t find an imposter or a fake, but the Almighty, Sovereign, Holy God. And we have full access into your presence without fear of condemnation or risk of annihilation. Because of the blood of Your Son, You see us as pure and holy in Your eyes. The sacrifice has been made once and for all. The separation has been removed forever. Thank You!. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Exodus 24-25

Seeing God

“and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. Exodus 24:10 NASB

Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and 70 of the elders of Israel got to SEE God! And they lived to talk about it. What an amazing day that must have been. Can you imagine the thrill these guys had to be able to say that they had seen God Himself? “And though Israel’s leaders saw God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they shared a meal together in God’s presence!” (Exodus 24:11 NLT). They got to have a feast right there in the presence of God Almighty. What a day!

But what about me? What about you? Do we get to see God? Is there ever a time when we get to eat and drink in the very presence of God Almighty? I had to think about that one this morning. My immediate response is “No!” I cannot recall a time when I saw anything like what Moses and his companions saw. I have also never had the experience Moses would have just a few days later when he was invited by God to the top of the mountain. “The Israelites at the foot of the mountain saw an awesome sight. The awesome glory of the LORD on the mountaintop looked like a devouring fire. Then Moses disappeared into the cloud as he climbed higher up the mountain. He stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:17-18 NLT). Yet I had to ask myself if I had ever been in the presence of God. Had I ever seen God face to face. No, I have never had quite the same experience that Moses had. No, I have never seen God’s image or His glory like an all-consuming fire on the top of a mountain, but I have seen God. I have seen Him all around me. But the times have been few and far between. Not because God has not been there, but because of my poor eyesight. Take last night for example. My son was at soccer practice and I was reading a book about prayer as I waited for Him. The chapter I was reading was about how prayer was a form of worship, of coming into the presence of God. As I read, three little children next to me were running and chasing one another as they played tag. They occasionally ran around the picnic table at which I sat. At first, I found myself getting aggravated at their constant squealing and ceaseless activity. Then it dawned on me. They were an expression of God Himself. Their joy and laughter was a glimpse into the face of God. In his book, Running On Empty, Fil Anderson says, “The joy seen in the most delighted child is but an inkling of the joy that lies within the heart of God.” Suddenly, rather than being annoyed at their laughter and play, I was reminded of God’s presence. He was with me. My focus had changed. He had been there all along, but I had failed to see Him because I was too focused on me. The truth is, I can see God every moment of every day, if I choose to. He reveals Himself in nature, in my children, in a song over the radio, in the beauty of a sunrise, in the song of a bird, in the stillness of the early morning before anyone else is up. He is there. But I have to develop what A.W. Tozer calls the “gaze of the soul.” I must learn to see Him. Which reminds me of the great old hymn, This Is My Father’s World.

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

This is my Father’s world, dreaming, I see His face.
I ope my eyes, and in glad surprise cry, “The Lord is in this place.”
This is my Father’s world, from the shining courts above,
The Beloved One, His Only Son,
Came—a pledge of deathless love.

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?
The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.
This is my Father’s world. Now closer to Heaven bound,
For dear to God is the earth Christ trod.
No place but is holy ground.

This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone.
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known.
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam
Whate’er my lot, it matters not,
My heart is still at home.

Father, this is Your world and in it, I can see Your face. I can see Your handiwork. I can experience Your joy and enjoy Your presence. I just need to get my focus off of me and off what appears to be the reality of this world and see the true reality of You. What I see with my eyes is NOT all there is. You are behind it all. There is something greater and grander than what I can see with my eyes. Open the eyes of my soul that I might see You all around me. Help me to look past the immediate and see the transcendent. Give me spiritual eyes so that I might see spiritual reality. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Exodus 23

God’s power, protection, and provision

“I am going to send an angel before you to protect you as you journey and to bring you into the place that I have prepared. Exodus 23:20 NET

Let’s fact it, we are going through our own “wilderness wandering” aren’t we? We are on our way to our Promised Land, but for the time being, we find ourselves living in a land that is far from perfect. But I don’t think the Promised Land is just a metaphor for heaven. I think it is a picture of life lived by faith in God and in obedience to Him – right here and now. In other words, we can enjoy the promises and blessings of the Promised Land in this lifetime and not just in the one to come. In this chapter, God is telling the Israelites that He is going to provide them with a guide – someone to lead them, protect them, and provide for them as they journey through the wilderness. His job was to get them to where they were going – their ultimate destination – the Promised Land. But this angel’s job was not going to end when he got the people to the land. He will bring them to the land of the “Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites” (Exodus 23:23). Notice that God seems to accentuate the negative, not the positive. He doesn’t remind them of the abundance of crops in the land, but the abundance of enemies. This is NOT going to be a cake walk. It is not going to be easy. But God says, “I will destroy them completely!” He knows there are enemies. He knows they are powerful. And He knows the Israelites will be unable to defeat them. So He promises to do it for them. God simply tells the Israelites that they must not “bow down to their gods; you must not serve them or do according to their practices. Instead you must completely overthrow them and smash their standing stones to pieces. You must serve the Lord your God…” (Exodus 23:24-25 NET). In return for their obedience and allegiance, God assures them that “he will bless your bread and your water, and I will remove sickness from your midst. No woman will miscarry her young or be barren in your land. I will fulfill the number of your days. I will send my terror before you, and I will destroy all the people whom you encounter; I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you” (Exodus 23:25-27 NET).

God tells the people that this is going to be a process. It is going to take time. He is not going to evict the inhabitants of the land in one fell-swoop. If He did, the land would become desolate and the wild animals would take over. This was going to be a methodical, slow plan of filling the land. But God would be with them. His angel would lead them. God would increase their borders and expand their territory – in His time. All they had to do was remain faithful to Him. They were not to make covenants with the people of the land or worship their gods. Instead, they were to evict the land’s inhabitants. God’s reasoning? “They are not to stay in the same country with you lest they get you to sin by worshiping their gods. Beware. That’s a huge danger” (Exodus 23:33 MSG).

So what’s the point? God has given us, as Christ-followers, His angel to lead us – in the form of His Holy Spirit. We have the divine presence within us to guide us and direct us. Just like the angel that appeared before the people of Israel, the Holy Spirit deserves the same respect. “Pay attention to him, and obey all of his instructions. Do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your sins. He is my representative – he bears my name” (Exodus 23:21 NLT). We are to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We are to follow His leading. He is leading us to the “land” that God has promised. But to occupy that land and enjoy all that it has to offer, we are going to have to rid the land of its current inhabitants. My land is occupied by pride, envy, greed, lust, and an assortment of other enemies. The Holy Spirit wants to help me displace these enemies in order that I might enjoy all that God has promised. If I don’t get rid of them, I will worship the gods of these enemies. Pride worships self. Envy worships what others have. Lust worships at the altar of physical pleasure. Greed worships money and materialism. God wants to help me rid my life of these enemies so that I can “possess the land” He has promised me. But this will be a slow process. It will not take place overnight. God, through His Holy Spirit, is methodically and faithfully revealing the enemies to me and empowering me to remove them. He has to expose them to me before He can expel them. He wants me to take them on one at a time – with His help.

God is at work in my life and yours. He is leading us and empowering us. He wants to provide and protect us. But we must obey His angel. We must listen to the promptings of His Spirit within us. The enemies will show up on a daily basis. They are not going to leave willingly or easily. It is a battle, but the angel of the Lord fights for us. We can have victory. We can enjoy the promises of God – even this side of heaven.

Father, thank You for reminding me that there are promises to be had here and now. I have Your Spirit to lead me, provide for me, and protect me. He also fights for me. This battle is Yours, not mine. I am no match for the enemies in my life. I have tried to defeat pride before. I have tried to drive lust from my life in my own strength before. I have tried to stop envy from attacking me. But each time I have failed. Because I keep forgetting that I can’t fight these battles alone. Keep me dependent on You. Help me to realize just how much I need You. Open my eyes to the enemies occupying the land of my life and turn to You for help. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Exodus 21-22

The devil is in the details

“These are the decisions that you will set before them: Exodus 21:1 NET

In chapter 20, God gave to the people the decalogue or the Ten Commandments. Now, in the following chapters, He expands on the 1o and gives actual application of the original ten laws for daily life. In these two chapters we see an expansion of laws five through eight. The NET Bible study notes describes this section in the following way: “There follows now a series of rulings called “the decisions” or “the judgments” (הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים, hammishpatim). A precept is stated, and then various cases in which the law is applicable are examined. These rulings are all in harmony with the Decalogue that has just been given and can be grouped into three categories: civil or criminal laws, religious or cultic laws, and moral or humanitarian laws.”

God gives the people of Israel His decisions or judgments on a variety of issues or potential circumstances of daily life. He did not leave them with just the original Ten Commandments and assume they would be able to make the application of those laws to all the situations that could arise in life. No, He gave them very detailed instructions or judgments in order that there would be no question about how these laws were to apply to their lives. Because it is in the details of life that the real troubles lie. The devil is in the details. He loves to make things much more difficult than they should be. He loves to play fast and loose with God’s law and get us to justify and rationalize our actions. And God seems to know that, because he goes to great lengths to show the people just how serious He is about His law.

And these “decisions” that God passed on to the people seem to all be about relationships or our interactions with others. God appears to be consumed with how His people will bear His image in their interactions and relationships with one another and the outside world. He gives a lot of importance to how we treat our possessions and the possessions of others. He goes into great detail about everything from virgins and oxen to widows and orphans. He gives application of the law for everything from personal injury and property damage to theft and dishonesty. Reading through these chapters is almost mind-numbing because of the minutia and the attention to detail given. You can almost get hung up on the details and lose sight of the principles behind it all.

Which reminds me of the encounter Jesus had with the expert in the law. This man approached the Lord one day and asked Him which of all the laws was the most important. And Jesus replied: “The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.'” (Mark 12:29-31 NLT). Notice that Jesus does not quote any of of the original Ten Commandments. He alludes to the first, but He quotes from Deuteronomy 6. He tells the man that the most important commandment or law is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. In other words, love God with all your being – with everything you have. The “decisions” outlined in chapters 21-22 of Exodus are an expression of what that looks like. We show love to God when we obey His law in the details of life. We also show love to God when we love one another. Love for God is not nebulous or ethereal – it is real and practical. It is expressed in the details of daily life. And yet, that is right where the enemy wants to cloud our thinking. He wants to keep our love for God as something that is merely a feeling, something abstract and impractical. But God wants our love for Him to be highly practical, highly relational, and highly visible. As we relate to one another and interact with the physical world around us, our love for God is expressed and fleshed out. Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35 NLT). How we live with and love one another in this world is proof of our love for God and our relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s all in the details.

Father, You took the time to flesh out for Your people the details of the law. You had the Holy Spirit inspire the writers of Your Word to write down these detailed “decisions” or instructions for a reason. But I tend to want to blow right past the details. I want to keep my love for You as abstract as possible. I want to be able to claim my love for You, but not have to prove it. Yet You tell us, “Love does no wrong to anyone, so love satisfies all of God’s requirements” (Romans 13:20 NLT). So when I love those around me, when I do what is right to those around me, I am expressing my love for You. Help me see this more clearly each day. May my love for You become increasingly more practical and less ethereal. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Exodus 20

Knowing God + Fearing God = No Sin

“Don’t be afraid,” Moses said, “for God has come in this way to show you his awesome power. From now on, let your fear of him keep you from sinning! Exodus 20:20 NLT

The fear of God. Not a hot topic in most evangelical churches today. We prefer to talk about the love of God. Fearing God is SO Old Testament. Our God is a god of love. Yet there is an aspect of the fear of God that is desperately needed today. God has not changed. His Word has not changed. His might, power, holiness, and righteousness have not diminished. But many of us suffer from a kind of fatal familiarity with God. We feel like we know Him so well, that we no longer fear or respect Him. We have become too casual in our relationship with Him – almost flippant. Yes, He loves me and sees me as His child, but He still expects me to honor, respect, and yes, even fear Him. A healthy fear of God’s power and might, His holiness and purity, can help us turn away from sin. If we really know and fear the One whom we say we worship, we will be more careful with the way we live our lives before Him.

The best analogy I can come up with for the fear of God is that of electricity. We all know that electricity is a powerful force. But it is also extremely beneficial. We use it to light up our homes, to power our TVs and DVRs, to wash clothes and cook our food. We enjoy the benefits of electricity every day of our lives. When we walk into a room, we expect to flip a switch on the wall and see the lights come on. When we wake up in the morning, we fully expect the water to be hot for our shower and the coffee maker to turn on. Most of us are not afraid to plug in a hair dryer or the charger to our cell phone. We don’t walk by the wall sockets and tremble. But we also wouldn’t take a fork and stick it into the wall receptacle. We wouldn’t attempt to dry our hair while sitting in a tub full of water. Why? Because we FEAR electricity. We understand it’s power. We comprehend what it can do FOR us and TO us.

I love to do things around our home. I see myself as a fairly successful handyman. But the one thing I am most reluctant to work with is electricity. Because I fear its power. I know it is not something to mess with. When working with it I take a lot of precautions. Because I know what it can do. I appreciate its benefits, but I fear its power. The same should be true of my relationship with God. I should appreciate and love all the benefits that come from a relationship with Him, but at the same time, I should fear His power. I think it is interesting that Moses told the people of Israel, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come in this way to show you his awesome power. From now on, let your fear of him keep you from sinning!” (Exodus 20:20 NLT). Do you see it? He says, “Don’t be afraid.” But then he also says, “Let your fear of him keep you from sinning.” Fear not. Be afraid. What a minute! Which one am I supposed to do? Both. See, the people of Israel were petrified of God. They had just experienced His power as He spoke from Mount Sinai. “When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the horn, and when they saw the lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear” (Exodus 20:18 NLT). Their response was to tell Moses, “You tell us what God says, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us. If he does, we will die!” (Exodus 20:19 NLT). They were so afraid that they didn’t even want to have God speak to them directly. Their fear of God was keeping them from having a relationship with God. But Moses told them not to fear. God had revealed His power in order that they would fear Him in a positive way. God wanted them to understand just how mighty and powerful He was so that they would honor, respect, revere, and yes, fear His potential for wrath. God wanted this display of His “awesome power” to motivate them NOT to sin.

God wants us to have that same fear of Him today. He wants us to comprehend His might and power. He wants us to never forget who it is we are dealing with. We are never to become so familiar that our familiarity breeds contempt or complacency. The following quote sums it up well, “To live in fear of God means that we live before God and the rest of reality in such a way that there is never contempt within us. We take nothing for granted, everything as a gift. We have respect. We are always poised for surprise before the mystery of God, others, and ourselves. All boredom and contempt is an infallible sign that we have fallen out of a healthy fear of God.” —Ronald Rolheiser.

Father, I want to learn to fear You, not so that it will drive me away from You, but to You. I want to understand more fully your power, might, and majesty. I don’t want familiarity to cloud my understanding of just how holy You are. Never let boredom or contempt replace my fear of You. I never want to take You for granted. I am blown away that You have chosen to have a love relationship with me. May I never lose sight of the mystery and majesty of that reality. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Exodus 18-19

Oh, you will, will you?

“They all responded together, “We will certainly do everything the LORD asks of us.” So Moses brought the people’s answer back to the LORD. Exodus 19:8 NLT

Someone once said, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Back in the 11th Century, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was attributed with another saying expressing similar sentiments, “Hell is full of good intentions or desires.” In reading through Exodus 18-19 this morning, it seems that the people of Israel were full of good intentions and appeared to be enthusiastically willing to obey what God was telling them to do. But if you know anything about their history, it would seem that, while well-intentioned, they regularly failed to keep their word.

Chapter 19 records the giving of what has become known as the Mosaic Law to the people. God reminds them of how He had delivered them from captivity in Egypt and of His destruction of Pharaoh’s army. “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I brought you to myself and carried you on eagle’s wings” (Exodus 19:3 NLT). Then He instructs Moses to tell the people, “Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the nations of the earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be to me a kingdom of priests, my holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6a NLT). God tells them, “out of all peoples you’ll be my special treasure” (Exodus 19:5 MSG). All God asks is that they obey His voice and keep the covenant He is going to make with them. And their response: “Everything GOD says, we will do!” (Exodus 19:8 MSG). They sounded so sincere. They sounded like they really meant it, and they probably did. How many times have I made similar declarations to God with every intent on keeping my word and following through on my commitments – only to find myself dropping the ball and failing to hold up my end of the agreement. By agreeing to obey, they ratified the covenant with God. And they would do so a second time in chapter 24:3. But it wouldn’t be long before they broke their pledge. In chapter 32 we will read again the story of their rebellion against and rejection of God. “They have already turned from the way I commanded them to live. They have made an idol shaped like a calf, and they have worshiped and sacrificed to it. They are saying, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of Egypt'” (Exodus 32:8 NLT). Rather than keep the word of God, they turned aside and made gods of their own. God responds to their rebellion by declaring, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are” (Exodus 32:9 NLT). He describes them as stiff-necked and obstinate. They were hardheaded and even more hard-hearted.

But I can be the same way. I can start out with the best of intentions. I can pledge to God that I am going to obey Him and really think I mean it! I can have all the best intentions, but as soon as the opportunity presents itself, I can find myself worshiping gods I have made myself. The god of my career. The god of my intelligence (a small god). The god of pleasure. The god of power. The god of prosperity. There are many gods I can turn to at any given time in my life. I have surrounded myself with them. And any time I feel like God is distant, I can always find one of them ready to accept my attention.

But we, like the people of Israel, are a people set apart. Peter reminds us that we are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV). We have been chosen by God. We have been set free by God. We have been set apart by God as His possession. And what is even more amazing is that God has given us, as believers, the gift of His indwelling presence, so that we might have the power to obey Him and keep His covenant. He doesn’t rely on our good intentions. He gives us the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit. So we have all that we need to live as those who have been set apart by God.

Father, thank You for not only setting me apart, but giving me the power to live like I am. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Exodus 17

Is God with us, or not?

“He named the place Massah (Testing-Place) and Meribah (Quarreling) because of the quarreling of the Israelites and because of their testing of GOD when they said, “Is GOD here with us, or not? Exodus 17:7 MSG

That’s the question we all ask, isn’t it? Is God with me, or not? When we encounter a difficult situation or circumstance, we almost always question where God could be in the midst of it all. We want to know how He could let something like this happen to us. All we see is the difficulty. But we don’t see God. Yet, time and time again, He had proven His presence to the people of Israel, and He has done so with us. But how quick we are to question His presence.

This was not the first time the people had found themselves without water. And they shouldn’t have been surprised either – they were in a wilderness reason for crying out loud. Water was not going to be in abundance. They were always going to be finding themselves in need of water. But they had God on their side. He would provide. And He had provided. At Marah, He turned the bitter water sweet (Exodus 15:23-25). He then led them to the 12 springs of water at Elim (Exodus 15:27). In the wilderness of Sin, He provided them with manna and quail (Exodus 16). But at their next stop, they found themselves lacking water again. They faced another trial. So what did they do? Trust God? No, they complained to Moses and Aaron. They demanded that they give them water. God had proven His willingness and ability to provide for them, but instead of trusting and turning to Him, they turned on Moses and Aaron.

“But the people were very thirsty there for water” (Exodus 17:3 NET). They were driven by their desires. They were controlled by their physical appetites and urges. They were very thirsty. Thirst is a result of need. It is a sign of something lacking. But what the people of Israel really lacked could never be quenched by water. They would thirst again. Which reminds me of the words of Jesus to the woman at the well. “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14 NASB). God wanted to quench their thirst, but not just their physical thirst. He wanted to satisfy their insatiable thirst for satisfaction, peace, contentment, and joy. They were stuck between Egypt and the Promised Land. They were in the wilderness and wanted to either go “home” to Egypt or hurry up and get to where they were going. Yet God was all about meeting their needs and being their provider – even in the midst of the trials of the wilderness. God wants to meet us in our wilderness as well. He wants to prove Himself as the great provider right in the midst of the trial. But we have to trust Him – even when we can’t see Him. He is there.

God provided yet again. He had Moses take his rod and strike a rock and from it came a life-giving flow of water. “I will meet you by the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come pouring out. Then the people will be able to drink” (Exodus 17:6 NLT). Paul would later reveal the significance of this miracle. The rock was symbolic of Christ. “For they all drank from the miraculous rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4 NLT). When Moses struck the rock, it gave forth life-giving water. When Jesus was stricken and beaten, crucified and killed – from His body came the water of eternal life. Jesus Himself was sustaining the people of Israel even then. He was giving life to all who would drink. He was providing them with what they needed to live in the middle of a wilderness. We have the same thing from Him today. He gives us life so that we might live – even in the middle of a sin-filled, Satan-controlled world. But when we find ourselves thirsty and in need, will we ask, “Is God with us, or not?” Or will we remember all that He has done? Will we remember His faithfulness? Will we trust Him and turn to Him?

Father, You struck Your own Son so that I might have life. You have provided for me in ways that I can’t even fully understand, but I still doubt You and test You. I question Your presence? Open my eyes so that I might see You more clearly. Continue to patiently remind me of all You have done. You are the God who provides and I have no reason to doubt You. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Exodus 15-16

We complain. God provides.

“Do they not realize that I have given them the seventh day, the Sabbath, as a day of rest? That is why I give you twice as much food on the sixth day, so there will be enough for two days. On the Sabbath day you must stay in your places. Do not pick up food from the ground on that day. So the people rested on the seventh day. Exodus 16:29-30 NLT

These two chapters are an interesting contrast between the faithlessness of the people and the faithfulness of God. Three days after their miraculous deliverance from Egypt and the incident at the Red Sea, the people start whining and complaining against Moses and Aaron. They find themselves without a source of reliable water. The waters of Marah are bitter and undrinkable. But God provides a solution. He makes the bitter water sweet. He meets their need. All God asks is that they obey Him. If they will, He will continue to bless them. But one month later they are at it again. This time they are complaining about the lack of bread. They even begin to wish that they were back in the land of Egypt. They find themselves reminiscing about how good they had it back there – in spite of the fact that they were slaves and severely oppressed. Driven by their physical passions, they complain to Moses and Aaron again and accuse them of trying to kill the entire assembly by starvation. But once again, God provides. This time He rains down manna from heaven. He also gives them quail. And He did so in order that they would know that He was their God. “I have heard the people’s complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’” (Exodus 16:12 NLT). God provided bread and meat. In spite of their grumbling, God was faithful to provide. He knew they needed to eat. He knew they needed water. He knew them better than they knew themselves. But they didn’t know Him! They didn’t trust Him. They didn’t even talk directly to Him. Instead, they complained to Moses and Aaron. They had no relationship with the One who had delivered them from slavery.

God provided so that they would know Him. He met their needs in order that they might recognize that He was their powerful provider and faithful God. But the one thing God provided that we tend to overlook is found in these two chapters. It is the sabbath. In giving His instructions about gathering the manna, God tells the people to gather it for six days. On the sixth day they are to gather enough for two days. But on the seventh day, they are not to gather anything. Instead, they are to REST. God knew that these people were going to be warn out from their journey through the wilderness. He knew it was going to be difficult. So He set aside one day as a day of rest. In fact, He gives it to them as a gift. “Do they not realize that I have given them the seventh day, the Sabbath, as a day of rest? That is why I give you twice as much food on the sixth day, so there will be enough for two days” (Exodus 16:29 NLT). God gave them a day in which to be restored, renewed, and rejuvenated by Him. They were to stay in their tents and rest. God knew what they needed. He knew the physical limitations of their bodies. He knew how much they could endure. So He provided them with a single day of rest. But the people even disobeyed that. They doubted God’s word and disobeyed His command and went out and tried to gather on the seventh day. Why? Because they didn’t think what He provided would be enough. They also gathered more on the sixth day than He told them to. Why? Because they feared for the future and thought they had to provide for themselves. But all it did was rot. God knew what they needed, but they didn’t know God. They didn’t trust God.

God knows we need rest. But rest is something most of us never do. We fill every day of the week with activity. Even our attempts at rest are activity based. We don’t know how to sit and relax. We don’t know how to get alone with God and be rejuvenated and restored. We sleep, but wake up tired. We take vacations, but return more stressed than when we left. We pursue our hobbies in an attempt to relax, but find they don’t meet the need. Why? Because we need soul rest. And there is only one way to meet that need – through time spent alone with God. The Psalmist described this soul thirst this way: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalms 42:1-2 NASB). We need God as much as we need bread, water and meat. Saint Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in You.” You and I have a need for soul rest, and we try to meet that need in so many ways. We look to anything and everything other than God to meet our need for soul rest and nothing ever delivers what we need. And yet God is calling out to us, offering us rest. He says, “Stop your striving and recognize that I am God!” (Psalms 46:10 NET). Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 NLT). What we tend to want from God is meat, bread, and water. But He wants to give us rest – soul rest. Because that is what we really need. Over in Jeremiah 6:16, God told the Israelites, “Stop right where you are! Look for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.” But their response was, “No, that’s not the road we want!” They refused to walk God’s way. They refused to follow His directions. And in doing so, they missed out on His rest. What about you? Are you at that crossroads? Are you willing to take His path and find His rest? Or are you going to say, “No, that’s not the road I want!”? God will provide. But we have to obey.

Father, You want to give me so much more than bread, meat, and water. You want to give me soul rest. I am anxious. I am tired. I am stressed out, tapped out, and in some ways, spiritually burned out. I need Your rest. But I find myself grumbling and complaining about bread, meat, and water. Help me to take the path You have for me – the path that leads to rest for my soul.  Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Exodus 13-14

Stop. Stand. See.

“But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just stand where you are and watch the LORD rescue you.'” Exodus 14:13 NLT

God’s ways are not our ways. His plans don’t always make sense to us. But His plans are always perfect. And Exodus 14 is a perfect illustration of that point. In chapters 13 and 14, we have the fascinating story of the people of Israel being led out of captivity to freedom. These are exciting times. They have their pockets lined with the treasure that the Egyptians gave them on their way out. They have the Lord Himself leading their way in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. And according to Exodus 13:18, “The Israelites left Egypt in military formation.” They are bold, cocky, and confident.

But all that is about to change. As they march, they are unaware that God is leading them in a somewhat circular journey. Rather than have them take the straight path out of Egypt, He has them camp at the edge of the wilderness, then return back toward Egypt and set up camp right beside the Red Sea. This delay was going to give Pharaoh time to change his mind and send his army in pursuit of the people of Israel. This was God’s plan all along.

“Tell the people to march toward Pi–hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. Camp there along the shore, opposite Baal–zephon. Then Pharaoh will think, ‘Those Israelites are confused. They are trapped between the wilderness and the sea!’ And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you. I have planned this so I will receive great glory at the expense of Pharaoh and his armies. After this, the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD!” So the Israelites camped there as they were told. – Exodus 14:2-4 NLT

You mean THIS was God’s plan! To lead the people on a circuitous journey and have them end up at the Red Sea? Not only that, He had had them delay long enough to give their enemy time to gather his army and catch up! So now they found themselves between a rock and a hard place. They were in a tight spot. They had an impassable sea in front of them and an unbeatable foe bearing down on them. What were they going to do? Moses seemed to know just exactly what they were thinking. Because he tells them. “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord!” (Exodus 14:13 NASB). His short statement reminds me of the little phrase my kids learned when they were little when touring a local fire department. They were taught that in case of a fire, if they ever had their clothes catch on fire, they were to “Stop. Drop. Roll.” Short, simple instructions that any kid could remember. That’s exactly what Moses was telling the people of Israel. He essentially says, “Stop. Stand. See.”

Stop fearing! He knows they are afraid. Who wouldn’t be? They may have marched out like an army, but they are no match for the army of Pharaoh, and they know it. So they are afraid. When Moses says, “Do not fear!”, he is not telling them should have no fear, he is telling them to cease from fearing, to stop fearing. It is natural for us to be fearful in difficult situations, but we can’t let fear dictate our decisions or rule our lives. Moses knew that if they continued to fear, it would lead to flight. They would run. They would panic. So he tells them to “Stop fearing!” Then he tells them to “Stand firm!” Don’t run. Stay right where you are. They were going to have ringside seats to the greatest spectacle of their lives. They were right where God wanted them to be. So they needed to stay put. But how often do we try to get out of difficult situations? How many times do we even try to pray ourselves out of the jams we find ourselves in. But it may be that God wants us to stay put? Why? That’s where the next statement comes in. Moses told them to stand firm in order that they could “See.” See what? The salvation of the Lord. If they ran they would miss it. It’s hard to watch God work when you’re running. It’s hard to see Him perform miracles on our behalf when we’re having to look back over our shoulders. Moses knew God was about to do something great. So he tells the people to stop, stand, and see.

Moses reassures the people, “The LORD himself will fight for you. You won’t have to lift a finger in your defense!” (Exodus 14:14 NLT). This is the God we serve. He wants to show His power in our lives. He loves to intervene on our behalf and do great things. But we sometimes let fear cause us to flee and we miss out on what God wants to do. We sometimes refuse to stand firm because to do so seems to make no sense. We feel the need to get up and get going. And when we do we don’t get to see God’s handiwork.

God did something incredible that day. He performed a might miracle on behalf of the people of Israel. He led them across the Red Sea on dry land. He wiped out Pharaoh’s entire army. Not one Israelite was harmed in the process. “This was how the LORD rescued Israel from the Egyptians that day. And the Israelites could see the bodies of the Egyptians washed up on the shore. When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the LORD had displayed against the Egyptians, they feared the LORD and put their faith in him and his servant Moses” (Exodus 14:30-31 NLT).

So what about us? Are we willing to stop, stand, and see? Are we going to continue to fear and flee in the midst of difficulty or are we going to stand and see the salvation of the Lord? God is still in the delivering business. He is still just as powerful today as He was then. He wants to rescue us. He wants to deliver us. He wants to reveal His power in our lives. And sometimes He orchestrates situations just so He can do so.

Father, help me to trust You more. I want to learn to stop, stand, and see. I want to stop fearing and running from the difficult situations of life. I want to see Your power in the circumstances of my life. Forgive me for panicking instead of praying. For fearing instead of faithfully trusting You. Show me Your salvation.  Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Exodus 11-12

Jesus – Our Passover Lamb

“This animal must be a one–year–old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no physical defects. Exodus 12:5 NLT

“Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.” – 1 Corinthians 5:7 NLT

The tenth and final plague would bring death to the people of Egypt. God would take the life of every firstborn, in every household in the land of Egypt, including Pharaoh’s. The loss would be great. No family would escape it, unless they followed God’s plan. And that plan probably sounded a little far-fetched, a little bit strange. They were to take a 0ne-year-old lamb or goat, the best of their flock, without blemish, sacrifice it, then sprinkle its blood on the doorpost and lintel of their homes. Then they were to remain inside their homes so that the angel of God would pass over their homes, sparing their firstborn from death. This plan had to sound strange, even to the children of Israel. It included odd instructions about unleavened bread and purging their homes of all leaven. But those that obeyed God’s instructions were spared the loss of their firstborn. Those that did not, were visited with death and loss.

In his commentary on Exodus, John Gill has this to say about the passover lamb. “This lamb was a type of Christ, who is therefore said to be our passover sacrificed for us, comparable to a lamb for his innocence and harmlessness, for his meekness, humility, and patience, for usefulness both for food and raiment, as well as for being fit for sacrifice; and who is a lamb without spot and blemish, either of original sin, or actual transgression, holy in his nature, harmless in his life.” Jesus has done for us what each passover lamb did for the children of Israel. He died so that His blood could cover our sins. “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT). Jesus gave His life so that death would not visit our doorstep. Death was coming to every household in Egypt – regardless of their nationality, status, religious disposition, or moral standing. It was inevitable and unstoppable. But it could be avoided by following God’s of salvation. The same holds true today. Death, eternal separation from God, is coming to every household, every person, who lives today. But that death sentence can be avoided by accepting God’s plan of salvation – the acceptance of Jesus Christ as our sin substitute. To many it sounds odd and even ridiculous that this plan is the only plan. For others, they doubt that death is really coming, so they ignore the offer of salvation. Many think they can save themselves. I am sure that there were those who believed the same things during the time of Moses. There were those who refused to believe Moses’ warning. There were those who tried to do it their way and save themselves. There were those who thought all this talk of lambs, blood, unleavened bread and death was silly. And they lived to regret it. They suffered great loss.

But for those who obeyed, they were spared. But they were also delivered. And they were also blessed. Not only were they able to leave their slavery behind and walk away as free men, but they did so with their pockets full of the treasure of the Egyptians. God had blessed them with abundance – wealth beyond their wildest dreams. But wealth for a reason. God had a plan for that plunder. It would be used to build a tabernacle or dwelling place for Him. As believers we have been set free, released from slavery to sin and are able to walk in freedom, thanks to the blood of Jesus Christ. And God has blessed us beyond belief. “How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ” (Ephesians 1:3 NLT). We who were poor are now rich in Christ. He has blessed us and filled us with His Spirit. He has made us His heirs. He has called us His children. We have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). We are walking witnesses of His grace, mercy, power, and the truth of His redemptive plan. Jesus, our Passover Lamb, was sacrificed for us, and we have been set free.

Father, You have told us in Your word, that “if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free” (John 8:36). I have been set free from sin by Jesus, but I don’t always live free. That if my fault, not His. I choose to remain in slavery to sin. Will You give me a passion to live as a free man, not a slave. Will you open my eyes to the reality of my position as a child of God, not a slave to sin. I have been delivered from captivity, but too often, I willingly go back and live as if I was still a slave. But I am free indeed! I am delivered. I am forgiven. Show me how to live that way. So that You might receive the glory every day of my life.  Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men