devotions written by Deborah Galyen
“The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you” (3:15). God identified Himself to Moses as the God who had covenanted with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; He was in charge of Israel’s story, even if they didn’t remember Him. But He was also I AM, the LORD, whose authority and power were beyond any human tribe.
“And the people believed” (4:31). Seeing Moses’ and Aaron’s miracles, the Israelites began to believe in God. Every generation needs firsthand experiences with God to produce real, living faith.
“But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them …” (1:17). Exodus explains how the Hebrews multiplied in Egypt and became low-status, oppressed workers. But God’s power was demonstrated through their weakness; “the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied” (v12). Even more surprisingly, God used the faith of women (the midwives, a mother, and a sister) to bring about the birth of the Hebrew’s leader: Moses (chapter 2).
“God saw the people of Israel--and God knew” (2:25). God saw, and He had a plan to save Israel – not using weapons or politics, but by His own power.
“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you'” (v20). Jesus’ disciples couldn’t help the epileptic boy because they lacked faith, apparently. He didn’t rebuke them for their lack of excited emotion or their lack of self-confidence (v17), but because they were trying to do Jesus’ work without understanding the source. Real faith is trust and belief in the power of God.
Jesus said that with this kind of faith, “nothing will be impossible,” because with God, everything is possible.
“If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (v4). The appearance of Moses and Elijah, to the Jews, meant that the authority of the Old Testament (the Law and the Prophets) stood alongside Jesus, affirming Him. Peter wanted to celebrate Jesus’ inclusion with these “greats” of the past. But then the Father spoke out of heaven: “This is My beloved Son … listen to Him” (v5).
Jesus does fulfill the promises of the Old Testament, as well as the longings of other ancient traditions. Yet His authority is total and unique; He is the “beloved Son,” the only one who saves us.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (v25). Peter glimpsed the greatness of Jesus the Messiah (v16), but he still didn’t understand (v22) that Jesus’ glory would be revealed through his suffering on the cross. The disciples naturally thought that Jesus’ miracles and amazing teaching would bring Him ever-increasing fame. But Jesus explained – and demonstrated – that salvation and glory, “success”, would only come through sacrifice.
In one way or another, in order to be Jesus’ disciples, we have to follow Him to the cross. And as we do, we also follow Him into eternal life.
“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (v3). This is the despairing cry of people who look around and see only opposition to God and His ways (v2). What is the answer? The psalmist said, “The Lord is in His holy temple … his eyes see” (v4). Our response to sin and disorder begins with remembering that God is in charge, and He sees what is happening. He is always working for good, and we can join Him by honoring Him with words and behavior – “righteous deeds” (v7).
“In the Lord I take refuge” (v1). When everything is shaken, we are still secure in God’s hands.
“In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, 'There is no God'" (v4). Even in ancient times, many people lived as if God did not exist (whether or not they were called atheists). Without a personal, moral Creator, there are no ultimate consequences for behavior beyond “what works for me” (v6). This way of thinking, being our own judges and gods, leads to selfish, harmful behavior (v10); eventually, people even boast about greed and corrupted desires (v3).
“But You do see … that You may take it into Your hands” (v14). In the end, every person will be called to account (v13) in the bright light of God’s holy presence.
“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (v18-19). Jesus taught that our actions flow out from the conditions of our hearts, and those sinful actions (unlike ceremonial, symbolic actions) defile us. The Pharisees were concerned with the “tradition of the elders” (v2), but Jesus was concerned with how our hearts lead us to right or wrong choices.
Our interior life (our emotions, memories, worries, hopes, etc.) is invisible, but it drives our decisions. As we submit to Christ at the heart level, our actions naturally follow.
“They said to him, 'We have only five loaves here and two fish'” (v17). When Jesus told the disciples to feed thousands of people, their response was simply factual, “We have only this amount, and it is not enough.” For Jesus, it was another opportunity to demonstrate the difference His presence made to that equation. The disciples did not have enough ordinary resources, yet they had Jesus. He fed the people and they were satisfied, with more left over (v20).
Jesus went around announcing that the Kingdom of God had arrived – in Him. When the risen Lord is present, we no longer say, “We have only …” because we have more than enough.
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (50:20). After their father’s death, Joseph’s brothers were afraid that he would finally take his revenge. He reassured them, again, that he was cooperating with God’s plan of salvation. Joseph had no interest in dwelling in past tragedy; he saw the good that was happening in the present and wanted to rejoice in it.
Joseph knew that his brothers “meant evil,” yet he chose to focus on God’s plan of redemption instead. He let God be judge (50:19) and put his energy into building up instead of tearing down (v21).
“Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt” (46:3-4). Just as God called Abraham to follow Him by faith “to the land that I will show you” (Gen 12:1), now God called Jacob to follow Him by faith to Egypt. Jacob was challenged to trust that God’s promise was bigger than the geographical location of Canaan; God could be with him and bless him in Egypt too.
By faith, Jacob died in Egypt but asked that his bones be buried in Canaan (47:29). He trusted that God would fulfill all His promises, even beyond death.
“May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin” (43:14). Old Jacob hoped that God would show mercy to his sons as they dealt with the powers of
Jacob put his hope in God’s character. God used Joseph’s captivity “to preserve life,” because He is merciful, and He does everything possible to bring about our redemption (45:5).
“The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (v9). The psalmist believed that God would reward the righteous and judge evil in the future (v12), yet he also expected God to be “a stronghold,” a refuge and help, in the present. Because of God’s mercy, “the needy shall not always be forgotten” (v18), and we also believe that He wants to extend mercy to the needy, using us as His hands, today.
We live “between the times,” as we receive God’s redeeming work in our lives now, and we look forward to the day when He brings an end to suffering and makes all things new.
“It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer" (41:16). Joseph had been betrayed by his brothers and then wrongly accused by Potiphar’s wife. He spent two extra years in prison because the cupbearer forgot about his promise to help him (40:14; 41:1). When he was released to hear Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph had no control over anything in his life. But he was firm about one truth: God was real and was the giver and interpreter of dreams.
Trusting totally in God’s reality and goodness is like building our house on the rock (Matt 7). Storms blow through – loss, conflict, false accusations, disappointment – and yet the house stands firm.
February 22: Psalm 11 (02/22/2015)
February 21: Psalm 10 (02/21/2015)
February 20: Matthew 15 (02/20/2015)
February 19: Matthew 14 (02/19/2015)
February 18: Genesis 49-50 (02/18/2015)
February 17: Genesis 46-48 (02/17/2015)
February 16: Genesis 43-45 (02/16/2015)
February 15: Psalm 9 (02/15/2015)
February 14: Genesis 40-42 (02/14/2015)
February 13: Genesis 38-39 (02/13/2015)
February 12: Genesis 36-37 (02/12/2015)
February 11: Matthew 13 (02/11/2015)
February 10: Matthew 12 (02/10/2015)
February 9: Matthew 11 (02/09/2015)
February 8: Psalm 8 (02/08/2015)
February 7: Psalm 7 (02/07/2015)
February 6: Matthew 10 (02/06/2015)
February 5: Matthew 9 (02/05/2015)
February 4: Genesis 34-35 (02/04/2015)
February 3: Genesis 32-33 (02/03/2015)