Today’s readings are from Exodus 17; Luke 20; Job 35 and 2 Corinthians 5.
In Exodus 14, the people of Israel had walked on dry ground through the walled-off Red Sea. In Exodus 15, the bitter waters of Marah had been miraculously made sweet. Beginning in Exodus 16, the perfect amount of manna from heaven was being provided each and every morning for forty years. Three chapters, back-to-back-to-back, that contain absolutely incredible miracles.
The assumed site of Rephidim, photo by linearconcepts
Yet, when they could not find water at Rephidim, they grumbled again, asking “is the Lord among us or not?” How quickly they forgot! How quickly we forget. We experience God’s provision and sometimes miracles, yet consistently question, “Where is God when I need him?”
God told Moses to strike a rock at Horeb and water would flow out.
He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river. (Psalm 105:41 ESV)
He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people?” (Psalm 78:20 ESV)
1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (Amplified Bible)
For I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, that our forefathers were all under and protected by the cloud [in which God’s Presence went before them], and every one of them passed safely through the [Red] Sea,
And each one of them [allowed himself also] to be baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea [they were thus brought under obligation to the Law, to Moses, and to the covenant, consecrated and set apart to the service of God];
And all [of them] ate the same spiritual (supernaturally given) food,
And they all drank the same spiritual (supernaturally given) drink. For they drank from a spiritual Rock which followed them [produced by the sole power of God Himself without natural instrumentality], and the Rock was Christ.
In vv. 8-16 Amalek comes out to fight against the Israelites. Amalek was one of the southernmost tribes and it is quite possible that at this time their territory extended far south to the are of Mt. Sinai. Amalek was a descendant of Esau.
Amalek was always at enmity with Israel. This is the first, but certainly not the last time that Amalek will strike at Israel.
Here Joshua is sent out with the troops while Moses prays. He raises his arms and two men are there to hold them up as they tire. While they are raised, Israel prevails. It illustrates how vitally important prayer is in any battle, especially spiritual warfare.
Keil and Delitzsch note:
“The lifting up of the hands has been regarded almost with unvarying unanimity by Targumists, Rabbins, Fathers, Reformers, and nearly all the more modern commentators, as the sign or attitude of prayer. . . . The lifting up of the staff secured to the warriors the strength needed to obtain the victory, from the fact that by means of the staff Moses brought down this strength from above, i.e., from the Almighty God in heaven; not indeed by a merely spiritless and unthinking elevation of the staff, but by the power of his prayer, which was embodied in the lifting up of his hands with the staff, and was so far strengthened thereby, that God had chosen and already employed this staff as the medium of the saving manifestation of His almighty power. There is no other way in which we can explain the effect produced upon the battle by the raising and dropping . . . of the staff in his hands. . . . God had not promised him miraculous help for the conflict with the Amalekites, and for this reason he lifted up his hands with the staff in prayer to God, that he might thereby secure the assistance of Jehovah for His struggling people. At length he became exhausted, and with the falling of his hands and the staff he held, the flow of divine power ceased, so that it was necessary to support his arms, that they might be kept firmly directed upwards . . . until the enemy was entirely subdued.”
Vv. 14-16 is the first of five instances in the Pentateuch where we read that Moses wrote down something at the LORD’s command (“Write this in a book as a memorial”; cf. 24:4, 7; 34:27; Num. 33:1-2; Deut. 31:9, 24).
God promised the eventual destruction of the Amalekites (“I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek”), in order to strengthen Joshua’s faith in God’s help against all of Israel’s enemies (v. 14). Later God commanded him to exterminate (“blot out the memory of”) the Amalekites after he had conquered Canaan (Deut. 25:19). This explains why God commanded Saul to finish the job (1 Samuel 15:2-3) and took away his kingship (ultimately) because he disobeyed.
The Bible mentions the Amalekites for the last time in 1 Chronicles 4:43, when a remnant of them perished in Hezekiah’s day. Some believe that Haman descended from Amalekite stock, although some more recent commentators cast doubt on that.
Luke 20 recounts Jesus teaching in the temple, answering and asking questions, telling parables. Luke presented Jesus’ teachings in the temple as beginning with opposition from the religious leaders and leading on to Jesus’ condemnation of them. He evidently wanted to highlight the reasons for God’s passing over Israel to deal with Gentiles equally in the present era. All of what follows in this section happened on Wednesday of “passion week.”
First, the religious leaders question Jesus’ authority (20:1-8). This was an important issue and this passage establishes Jesus’ authority beyond a doubt.
“If you do not recognize authority when you see it, He said in effect, no amount of arguing will convince you of it.” (Geldenhuys)
Then, in the parable of the wicked tenant farmers (20:9-19) Jesus taught that Israel’s religious leaders who had authority were mismanaging their authority. It also affirmed Jesus’ authority, not just as a prophet, but as God’s Son. The leaders had expressed fear of death (v. 6). Jesus now revealed that He would die but would experience divine vindication. The parable contains further teaching on the subject of proper stewardship as well (cf. 19:11-27).
This was followed by the question of tribute to Caesar (20:20-26). Jesus wasn’t really teaching against the government. The early Christians, like Jesus, suffered because of false accusations that they opposed their government, but this was generally untrue.
All was brought to a climax the challenges to Jesus’ authority in the teaching regarding the resurrection (20:27-40). The Sadducees didn’t believe in a literal resurrection (that’s why they were sad, you see). Jesus teaches that there will be a resurrection.
To prove His point, Jesus cited a verse from the Pentateuch, which His critics respected greatly (Exod. 3:6; cf. Acts 7:32). His point was that “Moses” spoke of God as presently being “the God of Abraham, . . . Isaac, . . . and Jacob”—all of whom had died. He inferred from this that God could only be their God—then—if they would rise from the dead eventually. God will raise all people eventually. “All live to Him” in that sense. Therefore “to Him all are alive” (NIV). Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whose souls are presently alive, will experience bodily resurrection at the Second Coming, and will live in the kingdom as “sons of the resurrection” (v. 36).
Jesus’ questioners having fallen silent, He now took the offensive and asked them a question (Luke 20:40-44). Its purpose was to clarify the identity of the Messiah. He is both a descendant of David and the Lord of David (thus divine).
Jesus ends by condemning the scribes of immoral behaviors (20:45-47).
Job 35 continues with Elihu’s accusations against Job. This time, Elihu focuses on Job’s self-righteousness. He asked Job is he was indeed more righteous than God (35:1-3) and rightly claimed that God is more exalted than Job (35:4-8). Therefore, since Job was proudly exalting himself, he could not expect God to answer him (35:9-12). After all, Job’s talk was empty (35:13-16).
Elihu saw that God had not yet answered Job yet, at least not in any way that Job had hoped. Therefore he said “Job opens his mouth in vain.” The idea was, “Job, if you were really a godly man, then God would have answered you by now. The fact that He hasn’t shows your ungodliness.”
Many of God’s faithful have endured the “dark night of the soul” (originally coined by St. John of the Cross) when life was painful and God seemed absent or silent. Admittedly, if you google that expression, you will come up with a lot of new age, or mystic, explanations and expressions.
Lewis describes those times in the Screwtape letters under the title The Law of Undulation:
You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs– to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot ‘tempt’ to virtual as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.
I just love that last sentence. It almost makes me cry every time I read it.
2 Corinthians 5 starts by contrasting the earthly body (“tent,” which is temporary), to the heavenly, resurrection body (“house,” permanent). Paul has already talked about, primarily with the Corinthians themselves:
- Paul has already introduced resurrection a few verses previously at 4:14.
- Paul taught the Corinthians about resurrection bodies extensively in a previous letter, especially:
“For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.'” (1 Corinthians 15:53-54)
- The vocabulary of “groaning” (5:2) is found in conjunction with resurrection, “the redemption of our bodies” in Romans 8:18-24, written about the same time as 2 Corinthians.
- The vocabulary of “being clothed” (5:2, 4) is found with resurrection bodies in the passage quoted above (1 Corinthians 15:53).
This bodily resurrection is guaranteed by the Spirit (5:5). Paul expresses a longing for home in 5:6-8. Heaven is our true home and arriving there will be “better by far” (Phil. 2:23) and constant, complete joy (Psalm 16:11).
Right now we…
- Walk by faith, not by sight (5:8). So many people want to “see” and experience God. But we “see” with our ears, believing God’s Word.
- Make it our aim to please the Lord (5:9). I believe pleasing goes beyond mere obedience. We obey when we do what is commanded, we please when we anticipate the needs and desires of someone.
- Prepare to stand before the judgment seat of Christ (5:10). This judgment, also mentioned in 1 Cor. 3:12-15 is NOT the same thing as the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20. Our judgment is a judgment of our “service record,” what we have done for Christ. If it stands the judgment, we win reward. The Great White Throne judgment is for unbelievers, first of all identifying that their names are not in the book of life, then opening the books (pl.) and evaluating their “sin record.” We are not judged for sins at the judgment seat of Christ and cannot be condemned (Romans 8:1).
- Persuade men to believe the gospel (5:11a). We do not know whether we have the future to share the gospel, only today.
Christ’s love compels us to take up this ministry of reconciliation (5:14-15). In this section, Paul identified two motives for Christian service: an awareness of our accountability to God (v. 11), and the example of Jesus Christ (v. 14). Jesus is both our Judge and our Savior, and His two roles should have an impact on how we live.
God is able to take all that was old, broken and dysfunctional, and make it new. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ alone, we change. We become a new creation.
Tom Constable notes:
Obviously there is both continuity and discontinuity that takes place at conversion (justification). Paul was not denying the continuity. We still have the same physical features, basic personality, genetic constitution, parents, susceptibility to temptation (1 Cor. 10:14), sinful environment (Gal. 1:4), etc. These things do not change. He was stressing the elements of discontinuity (“old things passed away”): perspectives, prejudices, misconceptions, enslavements, etc. (cf. Gal. 2:20). God adds many “new things” at conversion, including: new spiritual life, the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, the righteousness of Christ, as well as new viewpoints (v. 16).
The Christian is a “new creature” (a new man, Rom. 6) in this sense: Before conversion, we did not possess the life-giving Holy Spirit, who now lives within us (Rom. 8:9). We had only our sinful human nature. Now we have both our sinful human nature and the indwelling Holy Spirit. This addition makes us an essentially “new” person, since the Holy Spirit’s effects on the believer are so far-reaching. We also possess many other riches of divine grace that contribute to our distinctiveness as believers. Lewis Sperry Chafer listed 33 things that the Christian receives at the moment of justification.
We have been given the ministry of reconciliation. One of my beloved Bible college professors, Charles “Spud” Willoughby, used to illustrate reconciliation with the eye symbol. Reconciliation (eye symbol illustration), Charles Willoughby
Reconciliation removes a barrier to our salvation, but it does not by itself accomplish our salvation. Thus, God can be reconciled to the world through Christ, but that doesn’t mean everyone is saved. God has “committed” the message (“word”) of this provision to those who have experienced reconciliation, and our (the church’s) “ministry of reconciliation” is to present it to all people (Matt. 28:19-20).
We are ambassadors. We don’t make this message up or change it, but authoritatively declare the words of the One who sent us. Part of our message is the offer of this reconciliation and our pleading our hearers to “be reconciled to God.”
Verse 21 condenses the grounds for Paul’s appeal, and expresses it in another paradox. This verse explains the “how” of full reconciliation and takes us to the very heart of the atonement.
This verse expresses the great exchange, the wonderful truth of double imputation and substitutionary atonement. Although Christ knew no sin, was completely free of sin, God made Him to be sin (imputed our sins to His account) for our sakes. Then, upon believing in Jesus Christ, God credits His righteousness to our account.
Thus, Paul will appeal in 6:1-2, TODAY is the day of salvation.