Tags: Cinco de Mayo, Cinco de Mayo Bible lessons, Cinco de Mayo devotions, commentary on Esther, Esther 5, reconsideration, seeking God, Sunday School lessons on Esther, unexpected delays
They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. However, in the days when Esther was queen of Persia, it appears that the way to change a man’s mind was to throw a party.
Then the king said, Cause Haman to make haste, that he may do as Esther hath said. So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared.
Esther needed an audience with King Ahasuerus and she needed his trusted lieutenant, Haman, to be there, but she needed this audience to be in private, and she needed it to be well-timed. Both of these needs were met by the providence of God, and Esther was successful in being used to rescue the Jewish people that Haman wanted to exterminate.
From the Jewish and Christian point of view, Esther’s daring and wisdom are heroic. Likewise, the king’s decision to grant the request turns out to have been the right choice (even if it was motivated by the anticipation of attending a “banquet of wine” (v. 6). But what – if anything – can we learn from Haman’s folly? He went forth from this privileged audience with the king swollen with pride and primed to be easily offended by anyone who wouldn’t honor him. May the Lord grant us the grace to do the opposite.
When you experience a delay – even in something to which you are greatly looking forward – take the occasion to reconsider. Seek the face of the Lord and seek out His will in His Word. If what we are anxious to partake of is fraught with sin, a forced delay may be our last chance for repentance and rescue.
Tags: 70s fashion, commentary on Micah, God's fury, God's vengeance, heathen, jean shorts, Micah 5, Sunday School lessons on Micah, wrath of God
Do you remember the 70s when everyone wore “cut-offs?” Those old blue jeans that had been modified into shorts by a sturdy pair of scissors?
Micah Chapter 5 is God’s “cut-off” chapter, where He announces the cutting off of the things that His people never seemed to tire of, even when God’s patience had run completely out.
Thine hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots: And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds: And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers: Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands.
God cuts off, not to make a fashion statement, but because He will have the preeminent place in this world, not only in the hearts of believers, but, one day, in the suddenly-opened eyes and ears of everyone in the whole world.
And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.
Would you rather God have you by the heart, or by the throat? Would you rather be one of His friends, or be a part of His footstool?
Tags: commentary on Exodus, death angel, demons, Exodus 11, Exodus 12, fallen angels, Passover, Psalm 78, Sunday School lessons on Exodus, wrath of God
And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.
“Midnight” was the time when most of the Egyptians were the most likely to be the most soundly asleep, so this was a actually an act of mercy on the part of God. We know that the Israelites avoided this final plague or judgment by painting the blood of a lamb onto the door posts of their homes. How exactly, though, did God carry out this judgment on the unbelieving Egyptians?
For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
The LORD Himself, rather than “passing over,” passed “through” and smote the Egyptians, but He also “passed over” the homes of the obedient Israelites and would not let the “destroyer” come in. The way this is often portrayed in popular media depictions is to show a shadowy entity called the “death angel” coming through and doing the killing. We might get the impression that this death angel sort of checks the door posts, passing over some homes and entering in to others.
That idea may have partially come from Psalm 78, which is a very good synopsis of these events.
Psalm 78 gives insight into how we’re supposed to think about these plagues and the deliverance, and what God wanted His people to remember about them later on. It’s worth studying, and I would highly recommend it in connection with these lessons, but for now let’s just look at one particular passage:
They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy. How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan. And had turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink. He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them. He gave also their increase unto the caterpiller, and their labour unto the locust. He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycomore trees with frost. He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts. He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.
What does this mean? Did God send special angels to deliver the plagues and the last was the “death angel?” That’s possible. Does God have a dark side and a secret undercover team of “evil angels” that He sends when He wants to do something wicked? That’s impossible. Could this refer to the false gods of Egypt, lending credence to the possibility that they were in fact representative of demonic entities that were being ultimately controlled by God, and were now being allowed to turn against the people that worshiped them? Possibly. (Being evil, it is logical to think these demons would have no qualms about doing such a thing.) Does the “evil” in Psalm 78:49 refer not to moral evil, but to catastrophic events – what we would call “calamities?” Possibly. The point is – and it has been throughout the deliverance narrative of Exodus – that God is in control. He was keeping His Word and fulfilling what He said He would do. God has the power and the right and the authority to give and take life as He chooses.
Tags: common expressions, common expressions in the Bible, Ecclesiastes 8, Ephesians 6, hardened heart, marriage advice, Proverbs 21, Psalm 119, stubbornness
My wife’s mother, who has been married to the same man for almost fifty years, gives this marriage advice: “If you want your marriage to work, you must be hard-headed about the right things.” Generally speaking, the expression “hard-headed” means stubbornness. I think what she means is, though, that when times get tough in your marriage, you need to be downright stubborn about keeping the vows you made before God, and committing to stay together and work through the difficulties, no matter what.
I could not find the expression “hard-headed” in the Bible, but I did find a reference to hardening of the face.
A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way.
This kind of hardening is not good. It refers to stubbornness that ignores wisdom. It is the outward result of the inner hardening of the heart.
The hardening of the heart is a process, and a head is hardened by repeated stubbornness. The hardening of the heart involves both our own wills and God’s will, and a hard head is the result of God finally reinforcing what we want to think, anyway. The hardening of a man’s heart occurs when God gives us over to our own way. A hard-headed man can’t “change his ways,” because they’re his ways, not God’s ways. The hardening of a person’s heart negates that person’s warning system. It keeps him from seeing the danger in the direction he’s “heading” (no pun intended). A hard-headed person is sometimes called a dullard. He’s sleepy and lulled into a false sense of security. When someone is hard-headed, he is unable to see the danger which is abundantly clear to others. Don’t be hard-headed when it comes to sin and disobedience. The only thing hard about a believer’s head when it comes to sin should be his helmet.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!
Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.
Tags: Bible catechesim, Biblical Parenting, Catechism, children's catechism, creation, ex nihilo, Exodus 20, Hebrews 11, Psalm 33, Sabbath rest
Question 2: Who made everything else?
Answer: God made everything.
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
This is a good place to teach children that the “days” are literal days, and not “eras” or “epochs” or “ages” or million-year-long periods of time. It is also a good opportunity to remind them that God “rested,” not because He was tired, but in order to demonstrate the completion of the work of ex nihilo creation, and to establish a principle of spiritual rest and a pattern of physical rest for believers.
Other verses to consider:
By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.
This would answer a question a child might have: “If God made everything, how did He do it?” Answer: “He did it by His Word.”
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
Tags: Bible catechesim, Biblical Parenting, Catechism, children's catechism, creation, Deuteronomy 6, Genesis 1, Genesis 2, imago dei, John 4
A “catechism” is a teaching device typically in the form of a set of questions and answers. Catechisms have been popular in the history of the Christian Church for training believers in basic doctrine, and for articulating orthodox statements of faith. The Westminster Catechisms (the larger and the shorter) and the Heidelberg Catechism are two of the more well-known catechisms.
The word “catechism” is derived from the Greek words kata, meaning “down,” and ekheo, meaning “to sound.” So we might say that “to catechize” is to “sound down.” In other words, a teacher or instructor verbally questions the student or novice, and the response “echoes” back up with the correct doctrinal answer.
When I decided to formulate a catechism to use with my children I looked at several and came up with a short one, probably influenced the most by a “prove it” catechism for children attributed to Charles Spurgeon that I found online.
The Bible commands fathers to train children in Biblical instruction, and while I do not know of any specific commands to use catechesis as the required method, I do believe that the principle of “sounding down” (parents to children) in a methodical, formal, structured and consistent way is authorized by the Word of God:
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
When we do it in our family, I ask the question to one of my daughters. She responds with the answer. I say “prove it,” and she proceeds to do so by reciting the correct Bible verse from memory. Starting today, I will be posting the 22 questions and answers to our family’s Bible catechism.
Question 1: Who made you?
Answer: God made me.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
This is also a good opportunity to explain children what it means to be made “in the image of God.” To be an “image-bearer” of God does not necessarily mean that we are made in His physical likeness, because the Bible speaks of God as a spirit-being, Who is not confined to a physical body the way we are. However, God is a “person,” and therefore we, like Him, have wills and make choices and have consciousness and have a personality. This makes us unique among all of creation.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Tags: Christian families, Cinco de Mayo, Cinco de Mayo Bible lessons, Cinco de Mayo devotions, commentary on Nehemiah, family loyalty, family values, Nehemiah 5, Sunday School lessons on Nehemiah
The Israelites who came back from Babylon to Jerusalem to try to repair their city and rebuild their homes experienced extreme hardship. Not only was their work attacked by outsiders, but, in some cases, they were even preyed upon by their own people. Between trying to buy food during a famine, paying their taxes, and the great expenditures they were contributing to the rebuilding process, some of them were having to mortgage their crops, their land, and even their children!
Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.
Nehemiah, their faithful servant leader, was very angry when he heard about this, and rightly so. It was a classic example of the “us four and no more” mentality that – if we are not careful – will invade our Christian homes even today. I am not saying that we should not provide for our household or our blood relatives. A father who disregards his own family’s welfare is said to be worse than an infidel (I Timothy 5:8). What I am saying, though, is that Christian families who are blessed with resources ought to be quick and eager to provide for the needs of other Christian families that might be struggling. And we should never, under any circumstances, seek to take unfair advantage of, or profit from, another Christian’s struggles. Family loyalty can be a wonderful thing, but let us remember that we are, first and foremost, children of the family of God.
Tags: boll weevils, commentary on Micah, crop-planting, Matthew 2, Micah 4, Micah 5, Psalm 37, spiritual fruit, Sunday School lessons on Micah, Zedekiah
Micah Chapter 4 transitions from the destruction of Jerusalem in the near future, to the New Jerusalem in the distant future.
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.
The Lord promises a pleasant home, plenty to eat, and peace in the land. God will give us the desires of our hearts when our hearts desire what He desires.
Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.
Knowing God and obeying God are blessings unto themselves. Jeremiah had told the people in Judah to surrender to Babylon to save the city and the temple, but they did not listen.
Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. But they know not the thoughts of the LORD, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor. Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass: and thou shalt beat in pieces many people: and I will consecrate their gain unto the LORD, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth.
In the end times Israel will look weak and defenseless, but it will really be strong through God’s power in “the remnant.”
Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.
King Zedekiah would be captured while trying to escape and the Babylonians would humiliate him by striking him with a rod across the face.
Micah 5:2-5 is the prophecy found here in the New Testament:
And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
Micah reveals that the Messiah would be: eternal; humble; rejected; and returning victoriously. The prophecy of the Messiah was to give comfort and to arouse responsibility, not to satisfy curiosity or cause complacency. We may say the same about the prophecies in the New Testament today concerning Jesus’s return.
And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men. And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep: who, if he go through, both treadeth down, and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver.
The people of God should be like lions: strong and bold. And like dew: refreshing and fruit-producing.
And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots: And I will cut off the cities of thy land, and throw down all thy strong holds: And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers: Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands. And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy thy cities. And I will execute vengeance in anger and fury upon the heathen, such as they have not heard.
God warns, and then He purges. He wants to get good fruit out of our lives. If we are a field, and are producing bad fruit – the wrong kind of fruit – no amount of pruning, weeding, fertilizing, watering, is going to help. We’ve got to be plowed up and re-planted. Christ will deliver you from some particular sin, but by trusting Him to do so, you place yourself totally in His hands, and He doesn’t just want you to be one sin lighter. He wants you to be perfect. If you trust the crop expert to get rid of the boll weevils, do not be surprised if he burns the whole crop and completely re-plants before He is done.
Tags: ancient Egypt, commentary on Exodus, Exodus 10, locusts, Pharaoh, plague of darkness, plague of locusts, Romans 1, Sunday School lessons on Exodus
And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me.
There was never any doubt about Pharaoh’s humility from Heaven’s perspective. It would come to pass. The question from Moses’s perspective was, “Would it be the easy way or the hard way?” The demand that they be allowed to “serve” was the same as a demand that they be allowed to “worship.”
Else, if thou refuse to let my people go, behold, to morrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast: And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field:
This locust plague would be even worse than the plague of hail: these locusts would be animated. They affected the Egyptians only, and they exposed the false goddess Isis.
And they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day. And he turned himself, and went out from Pharaoh. And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?
Pharaoh’s servants asked a pretty bold question to someone who was supposed to be a supreme ruler, but times were desperate. They saw what Pharaoh could not – or would not – see.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days: They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
The plague of darkness affected the Egyptians only. It exposed the false god Re – the so-called sun god. This was the worst plague yet. It was total darkness – darkness that was palpable, debilitating, and depressing. It didn’t just affect the quality of life in Egypt – it put life at a standstill. Liberal scholars will claim that it was really an eclipse or a sandstorm, but this was truly a supernatural phenomenon, and and it illustrated that a hardened heart is a darkened heart.
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
Tags: commentary on Exodus, Exodus 12, gratitude, ingratitude, memory, mixed multitude, Numbers 11, outside influence, Sunday School lessons on Exodus
Exodus 12:38 contains a seemingly minor detail at the climax of the plagues account that would have larger repercussions later on. In order to get the context, though, we will start here:
And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
This is the final plague/sign, commonly known as “the death of the firstborn.”
And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said.
Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also. And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men. And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.
The rules for observing the Passover feast would require the use of unleavened bread.
And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment:
These jewels and clothing were “borrowed” in the sense that the Egyptians gave them freely, not in the sense that they expected to get them back. God had arranged this “civilized plunder” of the Egyptians in order to make it clear that it was not the might of the Israelites that accomplished their deliverance; it was purely and completely the work of the Lord.
And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.
These things were “lent” from the perspective of the Egyptians, again meaning that they did it freely and voluntarily, although, from God’s perspective, these were the “spoils” of the war He had waged (and won) against Pharaoh and the false Egyptian gods. If the Israelites were more mystified than victorious in their demeanor when they received these spoils, it was because God had done all the fighting, not them.
And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.
Exodus 12:37-38 (emphasis added)
This “mixed multitude” consisted of non-Jewish people who decided to leave Egypt along with the children of Israel for whatever reason. The term connotes the idea that these were some of the “rabble” or “riffraff” of Egyptian society. In other words, they were not the best and the brightest of Egypt. They may have included some escaping slaves or criminals – or maybe even people who were hoping to get back some of the stuff they had just given to the Israelites. They may have also been scared that the plagues would continue, and wanted to get out while the getting was good.
When you have a group of people who are truly following and fearing God, and another group of people mixed in who have an ulterior motive for being there, we might predict that a recipe for trouble is forming. Let’s see what happens when they turn up again in Scripture.
The Israelites didn’t have enough faith to go straight into the promised land, so they wound up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. God was feeding them with manna, which was “heavenly bread” that fell from the sky.
And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?
A great number of Israelites had just been burned up for complaining and being ungrateful and blaspheming God. Now they are being influenced by these hangers-on – the mixed multitude.
We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:
Discontentment and a lack of faith can really play havoc with the memory. Cucumbers? What about the forced slave labor? Melons? What about the lack of freedom to worship? The onions? What about the beatings and torture and abuse? The garlic? What about when Pharaoh wanted to kill all the firstborn sons? Instead of rational analysis, and instead of looking on the bright side, they expressed ingratitude:
But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes. And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium. And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil. And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it. Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased.
Here’s three simple lessons we can take from this account:
1. We need to be careful about who we allow to influence us.
The mixed multitude were in the Israelite crowd, but they were not really God’s people. Not everybody who claims to be a Christian really is. Not everybody who comes to church comes to worship God. Jesus taught about the difference between wheat and tares.
2. Don’t fall for the lie that the world tastes better.
Our flesh has a short memory. The Word of God tells what is truly good for us.
3. God provides what is best for us whether we recognize it or not.