M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, February 27

Today’s readings are from Exodus 10, Luke 13, Job 28, 1 Corinthians 14.

Exodus 10 begins by explaining again the purpose of the plague miracles:

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

The eighth plague, due to Pharaoh’s refusal to allow Israel to go and worship Him, was the locusts.  They would “eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the field” (v. 5).  When Pharaoh seemed willing to relent, he asked WHO would go.  When Moses explained that even the children would go, Pharaoh balked.  The result of the plague was: “Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt” (V. 15).


A swarm of locusts in Egypt

Even though Pharaoh never exhibited a full repentance and submission to Yahweh, he would ask forgiveness for his individual acts of refusal.

16 Then Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. 17 Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the LORD your God only to remove this death from me.”

Yahweh would relent, but He knew Pharaoh’s heart.  Again, Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart (v. 20) and the ninth plague of darkness fell upon the land.  God was prying Israel from Pharaoh’s hands inch by inch, for this time he wouldn’t allow the flocks to go, but Moses said they were needed for sacrifices.  Pharaoh wouldn’t let them go.

I am much like Pharaoh, bargaining piece by piece with God, when He demands all of me.

Pharaoh and Moses do not part on good terms, and everything is set up for the final plague–the death of the firstborn.

When you see disasters in the news, do you sometimes think, “Well, they deserved it.”  I believe that is what some people thought when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.  Luke 13 begins with Jesus using some current events where people seemed to be judged by God for their sins, but the main point He wanted His disciples to get out of it was that they repent.  And repentance may not be always available to us (vv. 6-8) as illustrated by the unfruitful fig tree.

Jesus, then, out of compassion, healed a crippled woman (vv. 10-13 but because He did it on the Sabbath the synagogue ruler tried to correct (and condemn) Jesus for working on the Sabbath.  But Jesus merely pointed out that we act kindly towards our animals on the Sabbath, then we should all the more act kindly towards a person bound up in disease (vv. 14-17).

Jesus then used two parables to identify the nature of the kingdom.  It was similar to a mustard seed (vv. 18-19) and to yeast (vv. 20-21) because although they began small, they developed into something large and significant.  Entrance into that kingdom would be through a narrow door (vv. 22-30), which Gentiles may do more than Israel!  Therefore, the kingdom itself may be postponed (vv. 31-35).  Jesus’ lament constituted a formal rejection of Israel for her rejection of her Messiah (cf. Matt. 23:37-39).

Job 28-31 continue Job’s soliloquies. Job’s three friends had nothing more to say, but Job did. He continued to talk about God’s wisdom (ch. 28) and to defend his own innocence (chs. 29—31).

Job 28 is a hymn to God’s wisdom.  Smick sees this chiastic structure:

Introduction (vv. 1-2): All treasure has a source

I.  First stanza (vv. 3-11): The discovery of treasure

     Refrain and response (vv. 12-14): Wisdom is elusive

II.  Second stanza (vv. 15-19): Wisdom as treasure

     Refrain and response (vv. 20-22): Wisdom is elusive

III. Third stanza (vv. 23-27): God and wisdom

Conclusion (v. 28): The source of wisdom

In this speech, Job demonstrated that his understanding of wisdom was greater than that of his three friends.  In chapter 28, Job gave evidence that he did fear God.  In chapter 29-31, he proceeded to give evidence that he also turned away from evil.

In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul corrects the Corinthians mistaken assumption that the gift of tongues was the most important gift.  Since love is the highest value, Paul argues, the unrestrained use of tongues in the Corinthian’s worship services is selfish; tongues (unless they are interpreted) edify only the tongues-speaker, not those around him or her.  This seems clear from vv. 1-4

1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.

I know some want to justify speaking in tongues as a “prayer language” because Paul says in verse 2 that the “one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God,” but the reality is that Paul is not commending them for doing so, but rebuking them.  When tongues are not interpreted, so that others can benefit, “the one who speaks in a tongue builds himself up.”  Of course, that is not the purpose of a gift.  It is for the “common good” (1 Cor. 12:7).  Ultimately, what Paul is saying is that the church gets more benefit out of the gift of prophecy than the gift of tongues, they receive “upbuilding, encouragement and consolation” (v. 3b).

His conclusion in verse 12 is

12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

Thus, it is especially true that in the church assembly, one should pursue speaking with the mind rather than in a tongue (v. 19).

Paul then goes on to say that tongues are a “sign not for believers but for unbelievers.”  Ideally, then, tongues are to be used in the marketplace in evangelistic contexts, not in the church service for worship or instruction.  Paul explains again the value of prophecy over tongues in vv. 23-25:

23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

Apparently, the situation in v. 23 is what was regularly happening at Corinth–everybody was speaking in tongues (and it is assumed by that expression that there was no interpretation) and when an unbeliever enters, they think something is seriously wrong.  What Paul is saying is that the worship service is not the time or place for speaking in tongues.

Verse 26 seems to express the normal worship pattern in a 1st century church:

26 What then, brothers?  When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.  Let all things be done for building up.

Surely there was order, as is expressed in the following verses, but it seemed to be very interactive with a mixture of different gifts operating.  It looks very different from today’s services, where one person up front leads or speaks and everyone follows together.  Of course, this was before the New Testament was completed and circulated, so services were very oral, although surely OT Scripture was part of it.

Paul then gives instructions on how to incorporate tongues or prophecy into the service.  There was to be order (vv. 27, 29, “two or three”), interpretation of tongues (v. 27, which v. 28 makes absolutely necessary), evaluation (v. 29) and control (vv. 27, 30-32).  Why?

33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

Paul then discusses the participation of women in worship.  I know this doesn’t sound politically correct to many people but Paul says that instead of speaking in the worship service they should interact with their husbands at home.  Hey guys, this assumes that you are taking spiritual leadership and have the ability to disciple your wife.

When all is said and done, Paul wants them to know that this is not meant to keep them from speaking in tongues (v. 39), just doing things “decently and in order” (v. 40).