Oh How He Loves Us

Tony Sammut   -  

As we journey through the season of Lent, our Community Bible Reading and Weekly Blog will take us through the book of Exodus.  This incredible Old Testament story — though it took place centuries before Jesus came  — offers both a foundation and a foreshadowing of the incredible things that God would do through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  As we journey through this biblical book, we’ll explore the connections between the two, and celebrate the incredible wisdom in God’s plans and the incredible grace in His salvation! Read on!

Day 1: Exodus 19

In many respects, this chapter, smack dab in the middle of the book of Exodus, acts as the hinge-point of the whole book.  Up until now, the story has described all the ways that God has powerfully worked to save His people.  He heard their cries for help.  He overcame the most powerful (and evil) ruler Israel had ever known.  He miraculously saved them from certain death by parting the seas.  He saved them!  He had done everything for them, and had asked nothing from them – it was all grace.  But now, God uses a word that hadn’t been heard since the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: Covenant (19:5).  God had shown His people an incredible love and faithfulness through all of this.  And now He was calling them into relationship with Him – to respond to His love and faithfulness by loving him and being faithful to him in return.  The people heartily agreed (19:8).  But we know their fervor wouldn’t last long at all.  And in fact, this would always be their struggle (and ours).  God is always faithful.  But our faithfulness is often short lived, broken, and mixed up.  We run from God instead of toward him.  Which is why Jesus would one day speak of a New Covenant.  It would be established on another hilltop, through another powerful and miraculous work of God to save His people – the shedding Jesus blood on a cross.  It would be a Covenant established so that we who are so often faithless, could live forgiven – never to be separated from God again.

Read Matthew 26:26-28.  Spend some time today thanking Jesus for the miraculous gift of forgiveness that establishes an unbreakable relationship of love between you and God.

Day 2: Exodus 20

God begins to lay out the dynamics of this Covenant relationship by giving The Ten Commandments.  These were not merely religious rules for the people to obey.  Rather, they described the kind of relationship the people were meant to have with God and with one another.  They described a lifestyle that would actually put on display the goodness and beauty that God had already been demonstrating to them – faithfulness, justice, generosity, and peace.  No other people group lived like this.  Because no other god was like this.  These commands were meant to set the people of Israel apart from every other nation, so that they might represent the goodness and love of God to everyone around them.  This is why God had said, “You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (19:6).  Because that’s what priests do – represent God to the world.

This was an incredible gift God gave to his people.  A new way to live.  A way that lived in relationship with God and lived out His love to one another.  Yet it was impossible for God’s people to follow through.  It was a way that remained external to them.  What they needed (and what we need) is a “new and living way” (Heb. 10:20).  A way that comes when God puts his laws on our hearts and writes them in our minds (Heb. 10:16).  Read Hebrews 10:16-25, and spend some time reflecting how Jesus is actually transforming your heart from the inside out.  Worship and thank him for the work He is doing.  Ask Him to show you what it looks like to display His “new and living way” to those around you.

Day 3: Exodus 21:1-23:9

As God continues to unpack his “Covenant ways” with Moses, He describes all sorts of ways He wants His people to relate to one another.  On one hand, some of these may seem a bit strange and archaic to us: falling into pits, bulls goring people, people’s eyes getting poked out – youch!  But if you read a little more closely, it won’t be difficult to see certain values running through these passages.  Justice.  Equity. Mutual responsibility and care for one another.  And what is particularly striking – especially for this ancient culture – is an incredible call to respect the dignity and value of those who were most weak and vulnerable among them: women and slaves (21:1-11), the poor and needy (22:25; 23:6), widows and orphans (22:22), and foreigners (22:21; 23:9).  God’s heart is for those who are most easily forgotten or taken advantage of, and he called His people to share his heart for them.

Jesus took these values to a whole new level altogether.  He elevated and honored women as friends and partners in a culture that treated them as property.  He served the poor and needy.  He healed widows.  And he blessed foreigners.  He showed the heart of God for the world was not merely about justice.  It was a heart filled with love.

Reflect on your relationships.  Where might you be overlooking or ignoring the value of someone in your life?  Where are you remaining content to tolerate someone when Jesus wants to show you how to love them?

Day 4: Exodus 23:10-33

Now God begins to describe some of the worship practices and celebrations He wants his people to have.  Each one of the festivals recognized a different way God had saved and provided for His people, and these celebrations were meant to be expressions of their worship and thanks.  God called His people to be faithful to Him and to refuse to worship other gods.  WHY?  Because no other god is like our God.  No other god has the power to save and to provide like our God.  No other god loves us like our God.  God alone had shown them all this.  He had demonstrated his ferocious love for them by miraculously saving them out of slavery.  He demonstrated His faithful love by continuing to provide for them with each new season.

As powerful as it was, the Exodus is not the clearest demonstration of God’s ferocious and faithful love for us.  The cross is.  It displayed both God’s incredible power (to overcome sin) and God’s intense love (to forgive sinners).  It showed our God to be like no other god, to go to lengths that no other god would go to, and offer a kind of mercy that we can get from nowhere else.

Listen to this song, and worship our God for being like no one else!

Day 5: Exodus 24

The Covenant is confirmed…  Moses reads the Book of the Covenant aloud to the people and they thunderously respond: “We will do everything the Lord has said!”  Sacrifices are offered at the mountain and blood is spilled to confirm the arrangement.  Moses goes up the mountain to receive the tablets with the Commandments on them, and the mountain is covered by a cloud of glory…  All of this describes a scene that would have been full of wonder and awe and fearful joy.  It would have been an exhilarating moment for God’s people.  And yet, within days, this was going to come quickly crashing down in a sad display of the people’s faithlessness and fear (you can look ahead to chpt. 32).

This is why another Day would be needed, on another mountain.  It would also be a day where God’s glory would land among the people in a most unusual way.  And they would respond with fear and faithflessness.  It would be a day where blood would be shed, and where God’s covenant love would be confirmed in a way that would ensure that nothing would ever again keep His people from drawing near to Him. Take some time today to reflect and rest in the love that God has shown you through Jesus.

Take some time in silence to bask in His love, just as you might bask in the sunlight near an open window.  Allow his goodness to shine into your heart and fill you with thankfulness and joy for all that He has done for you.