Bearing God’s Image

15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. 20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. 21 Furthermore, the Lord was angry with me because of you, and he swore that I should not cross the Jordan, and that I should not enter the good land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. 22 For I must die in this land; I must not go over the Jordan. But you shall go over and take possession of that good land. 23 Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

25 “When you father children and children’s children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to anger, 26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. 27 And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. 28 And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. 31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.” – Deuteronomy 4:15-31 ESV

As the day drew near when the people would make their long-delayed entry into the land of promise, it meant that Moses was fast-approaching the day of his own death. This section of his address contains his reminder to the people of his permanent ban from entering the land, placed on him by God for his striking of the rock at Meribah.

“But the Lord was angry with me because of you. He vowed that I would not cross the Jordan River into the good land the Lord your God is giving you as your special possession. You will cross the Jordan to occupy the land, but I will not. Instead, I will die here on the east side of the river. – Deuteronomy 4:21-22 NLT

With his death imminent and his time as the leader of Israel coming to a close, Moses increases the intensity of his instructions to them, in a final effort to prepare them for this next phase in their journey as God’s people. He knew his people well and was fully aware that they were going to face a myriad of temptations as they crossed over the Jordan. And one of the greatest temptations would be that of idolatry.

In recounting that momentous occasion when God gave the Law at Mount Sinai, Moses pointed out that the people had “heard the sound of his [God’s] words but didn’t see his form; there was only a voice” (Deuteronomy 4:12 NLT). Yes, there had been smoke, thunder, and lightning, and the people had clearly felt the presence of God, but He had remained invisible to them.

And Moses warned the next generation of Israelites who were preparing to enter the land to “be very careful! You did not see the Lord’s form on the day he spoke to you from the heart of the fire at Mount Sinai. So do not corrupt yourselves by making an idol in any form” (Deuteronomy 4:5 NLT). This was a repetition of the first of the Ten Commandments that God had given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

“I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.

“You must not have any other god but me.

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.” – Exodus 19:2-5 NLT

But why was Moses placing so much emphasis on this particular commandment? What was his point in stressing God’s ban on idolatry? It would appear that Moses knew that the people were going to struggle with the invisible nature of God. Their inability to see God with their eyes was going to cause them to doubt God in their hearts. He would become out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Their natural tendency would be to replace the invisible God with something more tangible and palpable. And Moses had seen first-hand just how quickly the people of Israel could turn their backs on the one true God.

All the way back at Sinai, when the people had seen the display of God’s glory and power on the mountain, they had trembled in fear. But while Moses was on top of the mountain receiving the Law from God, the people had decided that they needed a god they could see. Their leader was gone and their God, while powerful, was intangible and indiscernible. And the book of Exodus records what they did next.

When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.”

So Aaron said, “Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.”

All the people took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” – Exodus 32:1-4 NLT

While Moses was on top of the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments from God, the first of which was a prohibition against idol worship, the people were busy making and worshiping an idol. And 40 years later, Moses was well aware that the people of Israel had not outgrown their infatuation with false gods.

This tendency to worship that which we can see is hardwired into mankind. Paul addresses it in his letter to the Romans.

For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. – Romans 1:21-23 NLT

And Moses warned the Israelites about making replacement gods out “of a man or a woman, an animal on the ground, a bird in the sky, a small animal that scurries along the ground, or a fish in the deepest sea,” and he added, “when you look up into the sky and see the sun, moon, and stars—all the forces of heaven—don’t be seduced into worshiping them” (Deuteronomy 4:16-19 NLT). Because God is unseen, man’s natural tendency is to focus his attention on that which he can see. Man’s finiteness makes it difficult for him to grasp the infinite nature of God.

But God’s ban on idol worship seems to have a much more important aspect to it than first meets the eye. Moses warns the Israelites, “The Lord your God is a devouring fire; he is a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24 NLT). But there is more to this statement than God being jealous of other gods. God knows there are no such thing as “other gods.” They don’t exist. But the Israelites do. And they belong to Him. They were to be His chosen possession, and He had given them His Law as a written code of conduct. Their behavior as His chosen people was not up to their discretion, but carefully articulated in His Law. 

Which is why Moses warned them, “So do not corrupt yourselves by making an idol in any form” (Deuteronomy 4:16 NLT). The Hebrew word for “corrupt” is shachath, and it means to mar or spoil. By making and worshiping false gods, the people of Israel would be damaging their ability to mirror the image of God. Not only would the be violating His Law, they would be acting just like all the other nations. Their distinctiveness as His people would be destroyed. Their uniqueness as His possession would be lost.

God had warned the Israelites, “if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6 NLT).

But idol worship would mar the image of God in the lives of His people. They would no longer reflect His distinctiveness and display His glory among the nations. Rather than displaying their one-of-a-kind status as God’s chosen people, they would profane His reputation as the great and glorious God by behaving just like all the other nations around them. And hundreds of years later, when God’s people were languishing in captivity in Babylon, the prophet Ezekiel would declare the words of God:

“I am doing it to protect my holy name, on which you brought shame while you were scattered among the nations. I will show how holy my great name is—the name on which you brought shame among the nations.” – Ezekiel 36:22-23 NLT

God had chosen the nation of Israel and had set them apart for His glory. They were to have been His image-bearers on earth, living according to His Law and displaying His glory as they faithfully trusted in Him – the invisible, yet invincible God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson





The Potter.

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people. – Isaiah 64:8-9 ESV

Isaiah 64

Isaiah has used this imagery before. He obviously had an affinity for the idea of God being the potter and mankind being soft clay in His sovereign hands. Earlier, in chapter 45, Isaiah referred to the potter/clay relationship. “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’” (Isaiah 45:9 NLT). For Isaiah, imagining God as a potter helped him better understand His sovereignty and control over all things. Seeing man as the clay in the Potter’s hand was a way for him to visual man’s ultimate submission to God’s divine will. Sovereignty and submission were two key themes for Isaiah. And the apostle Paul picked up on this same imagery in the book of Romans. “Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?” (Romans 9:20-21 NLT). Paul, like Isaiah, believed that God was ultimately in control of all things. He believed and trusted in God’s complete authority and dominion over all creation, including mankind.

Yet, while Isaiah recognized and respected God’s sovereign authority, it motivated him to appeal to that authority and plead with God to use it in order to forgive and restore the very people He had made. God had fashioned the people of Israel out of nothing. He had raised up an obscure, no-name individual from Ur of the Chaldees and transformed his lineage into a mighty nation. He had rescued them from captivity in Egypt. He had led them through the wilderness for 40 years, eventually providing them with a rich and fertile land in which to live. They were God’s creation. He had formed them. Now, Isaiah was calling on the Potter to rescue them. He was appealing to the mercy of God. Paul knew that God was fully capable of showing mercy on whoever He chose. He wrote: “In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory” (Romans 9:22-23 NLT). Paul’s point was that God, as the Potter, was free to extend mercy to Jews and Gentiles alike. He had made them both. He could show mercy to both. And He has.

All of us were destined for destruction, but God, in His mercy, sent His Son to die on our behalf. He redeemed and restored us. He is in the process of refashioning us. He has the power and authority to do so. Isaiah knew that. That is why he called on God as the Potter and asked Him to extend mercy to a people who did not deserve it. He knew that God had made them and that only God could save them. He was well aware that God had the right to destroy them, but he also knew that God was a loving, gracious, patient and forgiving God. He appealed to God’s mercy. He simply asked Him to look on their condition. The rest he was willing to leave in God’s hands. He didn’t presume to tell God what to do. He didn’t question why God had allowed the circumstances in which they found themselves to take place. He didn’t shake his fist in anger at God. He didn’t demand. He didn’t complain. He simply placed the fate of he and the people of God in the hands of the Potter.

There is a great old hymn that speaks of this Potter/clay relationship in a very personal, intimate way. It simply says: “Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou art the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Thy will, While I am waiting, yielded and still.” There is a sense in which we must submit ourselves to the sovereign will of God. We must trust Him and rely on Him to do what is best for us. He knows what He is doing. We may not see the benefits of His will for our lives, but we must learn to recognize that He alone knows what we need, what we deserve and what is required to transform us into vessels of honor, fit for His use and capable of bringing Him glory and honor. It is one thing to recognize God’s sovereignty and stubbornly submit to it. You can resignedly accept His control, simply because you can’t do anything about it. But what if we could learn to see that control as something to rest in and rely on. When you can accept God’s sovereignty and balance it with His incomparable love, mercy and grace, you discover that being in the Potter’s hands is the very best place you can be. Then you can say, “Mold me and make me after Thy will. While I am waiting, yielded and still.”

Word of Mouth.

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. – Psalm 145:4-7 ESV

Psalm 145

Commend. Declare. Speak. Pour forth. Sing aloud.

Silence may be golden, but it has no place in the life of the believer when it comes to God. We are to be blatantly verbal and vociferous about Him. According to David, the only time we should be silent about God is in order to meditate on the splendor of His majesty and on His wondrous works. But the meditation is simply intended to provide us with food for thought and then words of testimony and praise. When we think about God and His greatness, we will be motivated to turn those thoughts into verbal expressions. God is due our praise and if we are silent, we demonstrate either our ignorance of His greatness or our indifference. It is interesting to note that when Jesus was entering Jerusalem on the back of a donkey’s foal, the crowds were cheering wildly, exclaiming “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38 ESV). When the Pharisees witnessed this scene, they demanded that Jesus silence the crowd. But His response was simply, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40 ESV).

God deserves praise. And as the only members of His creation with the capacity for speech, we are intended to use our voices to verbally acknowledge who He is and all that He has done. We are to commend, declare, speak, pour forth and sing aloud. And of all people, believers should have the most to say about God. There is something normal and natural about talking about that for which we are grateful or by which we have been amazed. When we see a beautiful sunrise, we feel the urge to tell someone. When we take a memorable vacation, we can’t help talking about it. When we are proud of our children, no one will be able to stop us from bragging about them. We tend to praise that which we appreciate. We talk about what interests us. We unashamedly testify to others about what we find meaningful in our lives. It could be a delicious meal at a local restaurant, a good book, a movie, a newly discovered musical group, a recent Facebook post, a personal achievement or any of a number of other things. But how often do we declare the greatness of God? How many times do we commend God to others? How frequently do praises concerning God come from our lips and to the ears of those we meet? Are we prone to sing God’s praises out loud and outside the context of a Sunday morning worship service?

David so eloquently wrote, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world” (Psalm 19:1-4 NLT). The heavens declare the glory of God. We can see it in a sunrise or sunset, a cloud formation, a night sky filled with stars or the gentle breeze on a warm summer night. God’s creation constantly praises Him. The angels in heaven never cease to offer Him verbal praise and adoration. But as human beings, the pinnacle of His creative energies, far too often we remain silent. Rather than commend God to others, we complain. Instead of declaring the mighty acts He has already done, we demand that He do more. We speak, but do the words that come out of our mouths concern God? Do words of praise, thanksgiving and honor for God pour forth from our lips? Do we sing aloud of His righteousness?

Our silence condemns us. But it has even far greater implications. Our failure to speak up concerning God’s glory and greatness puts the next generation at a distinct disadvantage. They run the risk of growing up having never heard of who He is. And it is not that they are living in a verbal void. They are surrounded by voices of all kinds shouting messages of every type imaginable. Their ears are being bombarded by false messages and deceitful words that leave God out or attempt to diminish His significance. So we must speak up. We must commend, declare, speak, pour forth and sing aloud. What the next generation will know about God will only come from what we tell them about God. Paul would have us consider “And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14 NLT). God deserves our praise. The next generation depends upon it.

The words of the chorus, “My Lips Will Praise You” say it all.

My lips will praise You
For You are holy
My voice will ever rise
Before Your throne
My heart will love You
For You are lovely
And You have called me
To become Your own
We have much for which to praise God. There is no reason to remain silent. Our silence indicts us. It reveals an ingratitude or at least an ignorance of His activity in our lives. And it leaves the next generation at a distinct disadvantage. So let us talk loud and often. Let us declare boldly and proudly. Our God is great and greatly to be praised.

Exodus 23-24, Mark 9

A Glimpse of God.

Exodus 23-24, Mark 9

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. – Mark 9:2-4 ESV

What would it be like to see God? Unimaginable, isn’t it? I can’t even begin to get my mind around what a personal glimpse of God would look or feel like. And yet God is incredibly interested in revealing Himself to us. The entire Scriptures are His revelation of Himself to mankind. His Son, Jesus Christ, “is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15 ESV). When Jesus came to earth, He made God visible to man. But in Moses’ day, God was hidden. His actual form was unseen by human eyes. They could see His glory, but not His true divine essence. To have looked on God would have been a death sentence. Later on in the Exodus story, Moses will ask for permission to actually see God, but God will tell him, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20 ESV). Moses would be allowed to see God’s glory, but not His face.

Yet in the 24th chapter of Exodus we have the story of Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the seventy elders all getting a glimpse of God. “They saw the God of Israel … and he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank” (Exodus 24:10a, 11 ESV). Yet the description of what they saw is quite cryptic and limited: “there was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stones, like the heaven for clearness” (Exodus 24:10b ESV). They were given a glimpse of God’s glory, but not a full-on revelation of His person. They couldn’t have handled it. It would have been too much for them. God gave them just enough for them to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was indeed Him.

Even the people got to experience a God-sighting. “Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel” (Exodus 24:17 ESV). There was no doubt in their minds that they had experienced the presence of God. It was clear and powerful. God’s purpose behind these appearances was to convince His people of the reality of His person and presence. He was a tangible, living being. He was real and not the figment of Moses’ imagination. Moses had been convinced of God’s reality on a number of occasions. But now His leadership team was receiving up-close and personal proof of the reality of God. They would know for sure that the laws being given to them by Moses were from God and not man.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The laws of God carry no weight if the existence of God remains in doubt. In chapter 23 of Exodus, God repeatedly tells the people, “you shall” and “you shall not.” He clearly articulates His expectations and requirements of His people. He leaves nothing up to speculation or the imagination. But He knew that the people needed proof. Everything God commanded and demanded hinged on the reality of His existence. It all goes back to the key question the people had been asking since they had left the land of Egypt. “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7b ESV). God was patiently proving His presence to a people who were plagued by doubt and constantly in need of evidence. But God lovingly refrained from displaying His full divine nature, because the results would have been devastating. Instead, He provided glimpses of His glory – small revelations of Himself that were faith-building, but not life-threatening. In the case of Moses and his leadership team, God wanted them to know that they were ratifying a covenant with the all-powerful, holy God of the universe. They shared a covenant-closing meal with God Almighty. That would prove to be a dinner they would never forget. The people had eagerly agreed to God’s covenant demands, shouting as one, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exodus 24:3 ESV). But God knew the people well. He knew that their pledges to obey would be short-lived and nothing more than lip-service without a visual reminder that the God to whom they were swearing allegiance was both real and ready to hold them accountable.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man has an overwhelming need to see God. That’s why men make idols and worship the creation instead of the Creator. We value what we can see. The unknown, while intriguing, is difficult to wrap our minds around. We desperately search for explanations for the inexplicable and rationalizations for the unknowable. Not knowing is uncomfortable for us. And we find not being able to see scary. So we search for God in the visible. But the danger is that we end up making a god of our own choosing. The disciples were guilty of doing just such a thing. Their view of God had been influenced by generations of ancestors before them. Their God was invisible and unknowable. He was distant and disconnected from their everyday life. It had been a long time since anyone had seen the glory of God in a pillar of fire or a pillar of cloud. They had not been at Sinai when the glory of the Lord descended on the mountain in smoke, thunder and lightning. Their God was real, but unproven in their day-to-day existence. They continued to make sacrifices at the Temple, attend the Synagogue on the Sabbath, and attempt to keep His commands, but the proofs of His presence were few and far between.

Then Peter, James and John got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a glimpse of God, up-close and personal. And it would not be what they had been expecting. They had been walking with Jesus for some time. They had chosen to follow Him, becoming His disciples and slowly coming to grips that He might be the Messiah for whom they had long waited. When Jesus asked them “who do you say that I am?,” Peter quickly responded, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29 ESV). The word “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for “Messiah.” It means “anointed one.” Peter was clearly acknowledging Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. But His statement did not carry with it an understanding of Jesus’ deity. So Jesus would include Peter in the trio of disciples who would witness His transfiguration on the mountaintop that day. Mark records, “And he [Jesus] was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them” (Mark 9:2-3 ESV). Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus, having a conversation with Him. When Peter saw this remarkable sight, all he could say was, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Mark 9:5 ESV). In spite of what he saw, Peter still could not see who Jesus really was. But God cleared it up for him. “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Sometimes I see only what I want to see – that includes what I see of God. I can be just as guilty as Peter of having my own vision of what God “looks like” in my life. Peter was willing to acknowledge Jesus as his Messiah, but based on his own definition and according to his own terms and expectations. He was wanting a conquering Messiah who would lead the Jews in a political and military victory over the Romans. But Jesus came to be the suffering Messiah. He came to bring victory over sin and death, not Roman rule. He came to bring freedom from slavery to sin, not from Roman oppression. God gave Peter a glimpse of His glory by allowing him to see His Son in His glorified state. Over in Exodus 24:15-16, Moses spent six days on the top of the cloud-cloaked mountain before God appeared to him on the seventh day. In the gospel of Mark, we read, “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves” (Mark 9:2 ESV). It was on the seventh day that God revealed Himself to the disciples in the transfigured form of Jesus, His Son. God was proving His presence among men. He was lifting the fog like a veil, in an effort to prove His presence and communicate His Word to His people. That day on the mountain, God told Peter, James and John, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (Mark 9:7 ESV). Jesus is the very nature of God, revealed to us as proof of God’s presence among us. But I must learn to listen to Him. I must seek to know Him and see Him for who He is, not who I have made Him out to be. I have been given a glimpse of God in the life of Jesus. And He now lives in me!

Father, thank You for revealing Yourself to me through Your Son, Jesus Christ. But forgive me for failing to see Your abiding presence all around me through Your indwelling Spirit and the power of Your Word. Give me eyes to see Your glory and worship You for who You really are. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Exodus 9-10, Mark 2

For the Glory of God.

Exodus 9-10, Mark 2

“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.You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go.” – Exodus 9:16-17 ESV

God will share His glory with no one, including Pharaoh. His every action and every decision are designed to reflect His glory and greatness. Every plague He brought on the people of Israel was designed to prove His power and convince the Israelites and the Egyptians of His glory. Pharaoh, the great ruler over Egypt, who was viewed by his own people as a god, was simply a tool in God’s hand to accomplish His divine will and bring glory to His name. When Moses and Aaron first approached Pharaoh and made their request that he allow them to leave Egypt, his response had been, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2 ESV). But God was going to introduce Himself to Pharaoh and the people of Egypt. He would provide them with more than enough evidence of His existence and plenty of reasons to proclaim His glory and greatness. When all was said and done, there would be no man, woman or child alive in the land of Egypt who did not know who Yahweh was, and it would not be long before His fame spread throughout the known world at that time.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God was in complete control of the situation. He knew exactly what was going to happen before it happened. He knew what Pharaoh would say and do before Pharaoh did. Each plague was planned and designed to fall in exactly the order in which they came. The intensity of the plagues increased over time. The devastation and destruction they brought on the people and the land grew exponentially each time Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to let the people go. This was all part of God’s plan. Early on, He had told Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong had he will drive them out of his land” (Exodus 6:1 ESV). God was going convince Pharaoh to not only let the people go, but to drive them out of the land and fill their pockets with treasure in the process. This entire story reveals a well-orchestrated plan implemented by an all-powerful God whose ultimate objective is to make Himself known among men. Everything in the Exodus story points to God’s glory. The defeat of the Egyptians will bring God glory. The release of the Israelites will bring God glory. Even the stubborn refusals of Pharaoh will ultimately bring God glory.

Over in the book of Mark we read of Jesus healing the paralytic. There is an interesting exchange between Jesus and the Scribes. They were appalled that Jesus had dared to forgive the man’s sins, something only God could do. Jesus asked them, “Which is easier to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk?'” (Mark 2:9 ESV). Obviously, it is much easier to tell someone his sins are forgiven, because the results can’t be measured or proven. So Jesus takes the more difficult path. He commands the man to get up and walk. And He gives as His reason, “that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10 ESV). The result of this healing was that everyone who witnessed it “were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!'” (Mark 2:12 ESV). God was glorified. Jesus performed the miracle, but God was glorified. Jesus’ entire life and ministry was designed to bring God glory. In fact, in His prayer recorded in John 17, Jesus told the Father, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4 ESV). Jesus’ life and death brought glory to God. The cross brought glory to God. The plan of redemption brought glory to God. And there is a day coming when the give all men will give God glory because of what Jesus has done. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

We tend to live for our own glory. We are constantly attempting to make everything about us. The result is that we end up viewing the world from our limited perspective and fail to see God’s fingerprints all over our lives and circumstances. Pharaoh thought he was in control. He truly believed he had the upper hand and the last word in what was going to happen. But he was going to learn, perhaps the hard way, that God was the one in control. He would come to understand that God alone was going to get the glory. Every man, woman, and child exists ultimately for God’s glory. We were created for His glory. We exist for His glory. All creation is designed to bring God glory. Jesus Himself brought God glory. Should we be any different? God will be glorified on this earth and through the lives of those who occupy it. His name will be lifted up and proclaimed through all the earth. As His people, we are to be His witnesses, His ambassadors, spreading the glory of His name and the good news regarding His Son. Our lives are to be living, breathing proof of His presence and power. Our faith should bring Him glory as we learn to lean on Him, resting in His strength and not our own. Our transformed lives should bring Him glory and proclaim His greatness and goodness to the nations.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

I exist for God’s glory, not my own. My life is to be a tribute to His greatness, not my own. He is at work in my life, not to bring me happiness or to satisfy my selfish desires, but to bring Himself glory. And the amazing thing is that He brings Himself glory by transforming me into the likeness of His Son. I personally benefit from the process, but I am not the focus of it. The Israelites were going to get to enjoy freedom from slavery. But it wasn’t because they deserved it or had somehow earned it. God would later remind the people of Israel, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:7-9 ESV). Ultimately, it was because God was a covenant-keeping God. He is a loving, faithful God who does what He promises to do. For His glory and our good. Jesus did what He did, not because man deserved it, but because God had planned it. He did what He did for God’s glory and our good. I am the beneficiary of God’s goodness because Jesus sought to bring His Father glory.

Father, I want my life to bring You glory. I know that You will be glorified regardless of whether I acknowledge You or not, but I would rather be a willing participant in the process, instead of like Pharaoh. I want to willingly glorify You by regularly acknowledging Your presence and power in my life. I want to praise You more. I want to focus more on You and less on me. I want to seek Your glory and not mine. May my life be lived in faithful obedience to Your will, bringing glory to Your name. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Corinthians 9

You Give – God Gets the Glory.

2 Corinthians 9

As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 9:13 NLT

For many in the church today, the word, giving conjures up all kinds of negative images. Some who once made going to church a regular part of their life, quit going long ago because they felt like all the church wanted was their money. And in the case of some churches, it would appear that building campaigns and fund-raising efforts have taken the place of the Gospel. Yes, there are times when churches need to grow and must depend on their congregation for the resources to make those efforts possible. But giving, while essential, was never intended to be the primary message of the church. It has always been an integral part of the believer’s experience, even during the early days of the church. But it would seem that the purpose behind giving was more practical and aimed at ministering to the needs of the growing body of Christ around the world.

Paul had no problem asking the various churches to whom he had ministered to give money toward the needs of the believers in Jerusalem. He asked boldly and he expected them to give generously. He wanted them to give willingly and not grudgingly. In fact, Paul told them “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT). Giving was to be a decision between the individual believer and God. It was to be an expression of faith and a tangible picture of their love for God and for others. Giving is not a selfish or self-centered act, but something done in cooperation with God. “For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you” (2 Corinthians 9:10 NLT). This is not a promise of prosperity and riches if you give. Paul is not saying that God is obligated to bless you with a financial windfall if you give. He is simply reminding his audience that it is God who gives us all that we have. Just as a farmer must depend on God to provide the seed and, ultimately, the bread, so we are dependent on God to provide us with our jobs and even the capacity to work so that we might earn a wage. God enriches us so that we might enrich others. He is generous with us so that we might be generous with others. And when we give, not only are others blessed, He gets glory. “And when we take you gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving – the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12 NLT).

Our generosity to others will cause them to glorify God. They may never know that we were the ones who contributed to their need, but they will know that God was behind it all. And when we give willingly and generously to the needs of others, it is practical proof of the reality of the Gospel in our lives. Generosity is not a natural outflow of the human heart. Because of sin, we are prone to selfishness. We tend to want to horde and are suspicious of those who might take what we see as rightfully ours. One of the first words every child learns to say is, “MIne!” Possessing comes naturally to all of us. Giving does not. Sharing is not a normal or natural trait for most children. It must be taught to and, in some cases, forced upon most children. And most of us still struggle with it as adults. But the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives should begin to change all that. The more we grow to understand the grace and mercy we have been given by God, the more we should learn to share what we have with others. Paul describes it “the overflowing grace God has given.” He has been overwhelmingly generous with us, providing us with the priceless gift of His Son. So He fully expects us to be generous with one another. All that we have, He has provided. He blesses us so that we might be a blessing to others. He gives to us so that we might give to one another. He meets our needs in order that we might learn to meet the needs of those around us. Which is why Paul tells us, “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NLT). Give because you can. Give because you want to. Give because God has given to you. Give because it brings glory to Him. Give because it strengthens the body and grows the Kingdom. Give because you can’t out-give God. Giving is a ministry, not an obligation. It is a privilege, not a burden. It is a gift, and we should thank God for it.

Father, I want giving to become increasingly more a part of my life. I want it to be a joy to give. I want to see it as a privilege, not a burden. I want to give in faith, knowing that it is You who meets all my needs – not me. I want to learn to trust You for all my needs as I willingly, joyfully help meet the needs of others. I want to increasingly know from experience that I can’t ever out-give You. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Corinthians 4:1-7

Jars of Clay.

2 Corinthians 4:1-7

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. – 2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT

Paul was anything but a braggart. He had plenty of credentials, a great education, spotless pedigree, and a sterling resume, but he didn’t put a lot of stock in those things. In fact, in his letter to the Philippian believers, Paul had this to say about all his accomplishments, “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done” (Philippians 3:7 NLT). Paul had a unique perspective when it came to his role and relative value regarding the work of the Kingdom of God. While others might want to brag about their importance and highlight their accomplishments for Christ, Paul was content just being used by God to spread the message of salvation. He was a tool in the hands of God. He was nothing more than a messenger of the Good News. He didn’t use coercion, flowery words, persuasive speech, trickery, deception, or showmanship to attract followers and impress men. He didn’t practice self-promotion or try to pad his reputation. “We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5 NLT). Paul had a singular message and that was Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. He viewed himself as simply a conduit of that message. Paul’s life was nothing more than a lens through which the light of Jesus Christ shone out. He lived to magnify Christ and to let the glory of His Savior shine on those who lived in darkness just as he once had.

Paul saw himself as a fragile clay jar – a common, ordinary household jar made of unbaked clay. There was nothing about Paul’s life that made him any more valuable or worthy of God’s love and Christ’s salvation than anyone else. He was frail and fallible. He was unimpressive and undeserving of the grace and mercy that had been given to Him through Jesus Christ. And yet, he had received the light of Jesus Christ into his life. The glory and power of God resided in him. Paul never ceased to be amazed at the significance of this reality. He was constantly blown away that God had chosen to take up residence in his life and displayed His power through him. For Paul, it was never about his accomplishments or capabilities, but what God was doing through him. He knew that God was doing the work, not himself, so He had no problem giving God the credit.

It is not the value of the container that matters, but the contents. Paul told Timothy, “In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:20-21 NLT). The context of this statement had to do with cleansing ourselves of any godless behavior that would bring dishonor to God. Paul was encouraging Timothy to keep his “vessel” pure. He wanted Timothy to understand the importance of keeping himself pure and avoiding godless behavior. It is God’s presence in our lives that give us value and worth, not our “container.” It is His glory that must shine through us. Too often, we want to impress others with the value of our vessel. We worry way too much about what others think about us than who they see in us. It was John the Baptist who said of Jesus, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:30 NLT). That was the attitude of Paul, and that needs to increasingly become the attitude of every one of us as believers. We are common, ordinary clay jars containing the glory of God and allowing the light of Jesus Christ to shine through the cracks of our sin-fractured lives.

Father, it still amazes me that You chose to redeem me. I know that I bring nothing to the table that qualifies me for Your grace and mercy. I have no value or worth that merits the gift of Your Son. I am a fragile, fractured clay jar, but You have placed Your Spirit within me and are allowing Your glory and power to flow through me. That truly is amazing and humbling. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men