Today’s readings are from Exodus 9, Luke 12, Job 27, 1 Corinthians 13.
Exodus 9 continues the plagues against Egypt. In vv. 1-7 the fifth plague is some kind of disease like anthrax, was more severe than the preceding ones, in that it affected the personal property of the Egyptians for the first time. The only new element in this fifth report is the notice that Pharaoh “sent” (messengers) to Goshen to check on the predicted exclusion of the Israelites’ livestock from the epidemic (v. 7).
The sixth plague consisted of painful boils on the Egyptians (vv. 8-12). Their gods could not give them relief. This is the first time we read that “God (the LORD) hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (v. 12). One might assume that God only hardens us after we harden our own hearts. But God had predicted the judgments that result from hardening in Genesis 15 and Exodus 2.
The seventh plague, in vv. 13-35 was God sending the worst hailstorm Egypt had ever experienced (“a very heavy hail,” never before seen in Egypt; vv. 18, 24), and accompanied it with “thunder,” “fire” (lightning?), and “rain” (vv. 23, 34). These two crops (flax and barley) are in bud in late January and early February in lower (northern) Egypt, which enables us to identify the time of year when this plague took place.
In Luke 12 begins with a warning against hypocrisy (vv. 1-3, continuing from Luke 11:45). The goal of a hypocrite is to be seen as something they are not. They project an image of themselves that is better than or different than they really are.
Jesus next prepares his disciples for inevitable suffering and possible martyrdom (vv. 4-12). Rather they fearing their persecutors, they should “fear” God more. God had greater care for them than anything else in creation and they should confess Him. Repudiating one’s faith in Jesus is a serious offense (v. 10). The Holy Spirit would help them give testimony on these occasions (vv. 11-12) so they didn’t need to worry about that. Bottom line: testify to Christ even when you are in real danger of losing your life.
Jesus then warns them against greed and tells them the parable of the rich fool (vv. 13-21). Desiring wealth could draw them away from Christ just as much as life-threatening persecution, maybe even more so. Also, don’t worry about your life, because God will take care of you (vv. 22-34).
To remove their worries Jesus reminded them first that life consists of more than material possessions (vv. 22-24). Second, He told them that worry is foolish because it cannot effect objective change (vv. 25-28). Third, He noted that worry characterizes pagans (vv. 29-31). Then He encouraged them with an incentive not to fear, namely: that God would give them the kingdom (v. 32). Finally, He urged them to transfer their assets from earth to heaven. This would give them immediate peace as well as eventual reward (vv. 33-34).
Jesus then teaches His disciples about the importance of readiness (vv. 35-40) and faithfulness (vv. 41-48) in preparation for their Master’s return. There will be a time of intense persecution (vv. 49-59) in which they will have to decide for Jesus.
In Job 27 Job denies his friends’ wisdom. He affirmed his own innocence (vv. 1-6), wished that his enemies would suffer the fate of the wicked (vv. 7-23).
J. Vernon McGee says…
“We can sum up the methods of his friends. Eliphaz was the voice of experience. He used what would be called today the psychological approach. This is the approach of the power of positive thinking. It adopts a cheerful attitude. Bildad was the traditionalist and he used the philosophical approach. This would be the approach of several of the seminaries today. They use the philosophical approach, but that doesn’t help anyone. Zophar was a religious dogmatist. He thought he knew all about God. He sounds like some of us fundamentalists, by the way. All of us would fall into the category of one of these friends. As we have seen, not one of his friends had been able to help him.
1 Corinthians 13 is typically called “the love chapter.” It begins with three verses (vv. 1-3) showing the supreme importance of love. Essentially, it doesn’t matter what gift or gifts you have, if you exercise them without love, there is no profit. All of this shows that the manifestation of charismata, spiritual gifts, is not the true sign of the Spirit, rather love is.
Then, Paul reveals some characteristics of agape love, fleshing it out so we know how to “love” someone.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.
Paul then shows the permanence of love in comparison to both gifts and virtues (vv. 8b-13). After two positives, “patient and kind,” Paul tells us what love is NOT in v. 4b-6). Maybe he does this because it is easier for us to see these negative attitudes and realize that we are not acting in a loving manner. Paul finishes this section by using the were “all, always, never” to again call us up short in our interactions with others.
Put your own name in vv. 4-7 every time it says “love.” Then put Jesus’ name in and meditate on how much and how well He loves you.
Phil Ryken has an excellent book, Loving the Way Jesus Loves, which expounds many of these qualities in 1 Corinthians 13. You can also find the sermons upon which this book was based at here.
The point of this beautiful classic exposition of love is this: We should value and give attention to the cultivation and practice of love, even more than to that of even the so-called “greatest” spiritual gifts (cf. 12:31). The other gifts, as important as they are, are only partial and temporary. As love is the greatest of the virtues that will endure forever, so the gift of tongues is the least of all the gifts. It will last only a short time.
That the gift of tongues was the “problem” gift is further explained in 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul contrasts prophecy to tongues as a greater gift. Apparently, those who spoke in tongues were exalting themselves and their gifts as of greatest importance, both in the argument and in the assembly.