Reading the Law

Unfortunately the reading programme that I’m following is more complicated than I expected in terms of the way the author has chosen to lay out the law sections of the Bible. It would be near impossible for me to post all the readings because the programme jumps around so much between Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. So here’s my suggestion. By the end of today you should have finished reading the book of Exodus, tomorrow you’ll start Leviticus. The programme goes back to a more natural flow on March 10th as we start reading Judges. So from tomorrow until March 10th you need to read all of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. I’ll post intermittently throughout this period with reflections on reading law and then we’ll pick up again with more daily reflections when we get to March 10th. This will also allow me a little more time to adjust to the new routine of “baby-dom”. Sorry reflections have been so sporadic lately – I hope you’ll understand.

To the end of January…

Here are the readings for the last 2 days of the month:

Sun 29th Ex 25:1 – 28:43

Mon 30th Ex 29:1 – 31:18

Tue 31th Ex 32:1 – 34:35

Hopefully in the next day or two I’ll be back home, the fog (in my head) will clear, and I’ll start up with some more consistent reflections. Keep reading, keep discovering.

29th January: An Update

Sorry – been out of town for the last few days and had little time to sit down and write some reflections. It’s now 1am as I write this but just so you’re not in the lurch for later today (29th) here’s the reading: Exodus 25:1-28:43. I’ll post the rest of the readings for the week a little later today, when I’m more awake! Just be warned the readings get a little complicated from here as we go into law sections. The plan I’m following groups certain laws together in an attempt to make it more readable – so there’ll be a bit of jumping around over the next few weeks. Enjoy.

26th January: Fight Song

Bible Reading: Exodus 13:17-15:21

Here’s the first war cry/fight song in the Bible. A bunch of writers have suggested that the Song of Moses and Miriam is actually the center of the book in that it sums up all that has gone before and points the way forward: God rescues, God keeps. The difference between this fight song and any other war cry or fight song is the important word that Moses speaks in 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still”. This brings out the fundamental difference between Christianity and any other religion/faith/ideology/worldview. In every other religion we have to fight to get the victory. In Christianity God fights and gains the victory for us. Jesus fights the fight we cannot win, and he triumphs – we need only be still and rest in his victory.

Don’t get me wrong, the Christian life is full of struggle and fight – struggling against sin and unbelief, fighting against evil – but that struggling and fighting is conducted from a disposition of resting in the reality that Jesus has already fought and he has won. The Song of Moses is the Old Testament gospel – the good news of what God has done in this world. Let Moses’ words nourish your soul today: “The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still”.

Tomorrow’s reading is Exodus 15:22-18:27

24th January: Plagues and Miracles

Bible Reading: Exodus 9:1-11:10

There’s a section at the beginning of chapter 10 that acts as an interpretive key for the plagues that God dishes out on Egypt:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD.”

These signs of power are there so that God’s people may know the he is the LORD. They’re there to remove doubt for the Israelities, that they might not think of God as some localized tribal deity but as the God who created and sustains the universe. They’re also there not just for that generation but for the generations that followed.

Many writers have pointed out that intense miracles of this nature are clumped into three distinct periods in Biblical history. You have these power displays here in the Exodus, you have a spate of miracles in the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, and then you have the miracles that accompany Jesus’ ministry and the ministry of the apostles. Essentially they all serve the same purpose. The Exodus miracles serve to make sure that this growing band of Hebrews know that God is the LORD. Then the Elijah and Elisha miracles come as a reminder of that same truth as the monarchy and the nation of Israel begin to plumet towards apostasy and ultimately exile. And finally Jesus’ miracles affirm that he is the Lord bringing the true Exodus and the end to exile. The astounding thing is that where previously the miracles had meant blessing for God’s people and cursing for the oppressors of God’s people, with Jesus even the oppressor is blessed. A Roman centurion’s servant gets healed (Matt. 8 & Luke 7). Where before the miracles brought only judgment for those outside the covenant community, now in the advent of Jesus Christ the miracles bring invitation into the covenant community. None more so than the ultimate miracle of Jesus’ death and resurrection. At the cross God the Father “dealt harshly” with his Son but then raised him from the dead so that you might know that he is the LORD.

Tomorrow’s reading is Exodus 12:1-13:16

23rd January: Darkest before the Dawn

I’ve just realised that I made a serious blunder on the readings. I listed 21 Jan’s reading twice. I’ve amended it, hope it didn’t throw anyone too much.

Bible Reading: Exodus 5:1-8:32

So the popular saying goes, “It’s always darkest just before the dawn”, which according to science is actually hogwash. As a result some people have wondered whether it’s a useful proverb at all. I’ve even read some pessimists suggest that we should change it to, “It’s always darkest before it goes completely black!”

The idea behind the original saying is to provide hope of a better future in moments of the utmost despair. The problem is that in real life the sun doesn’t always come up. But I think I’ve found a place where the saying does apply. Here in our passage, having been commissioned by God, Moses and Aaron go and win over the support of the Hebrew elders, and then they make for the palace ready for a showdown with Pharaoh. At which point Pharaoh promptly dismisses them and then heaps on the misery for the Hebrews by stripping them of the straw they need to make bricks. The darkness of oppression that they faced just gets darker, in fact it gets darkest just before the dawn. The very edge of their oppression is the worst – blinding light is soon to come in the Exodus.

This is one of those gospel patterns repeated over and over again in the life of Israel and most importantly in the life of Jesus. At the cross the darkest hour precedes the most brilliant and glorious light – it truly was darkest before the dawn. And so I put it to you that the well known saying only applies to humanity in as much as we are united with Christ to that dark hour on Golgotha. The Christian can truly know that in the darkest hour dawn is coming.

Tomorrow’s reading is Exodus 9:1-11:10

22nd January: Gospel Echoes

Sorry I missed another day (21st). I’m hoping things will settle down a bit when I’m back at work (7th Feb) and we’ve got a few weeks under the belt with our little girl. Till then maybe expect a few blips in the consistency of this blog.

Bible Reading: Exodus 1:1-4:31

So this is the setup for the Exodus story. God’s promises have been partially fulfilled: Israel have become numerous but they’re not in the land promised to them, nor are they living under blessing but rather under the oppression of the Egyptians. They cry out to God and he commissions a rescuer, Moses. The thought crossed my mind several times that the Joseph story is almost a mini version of the Exodus – the same basic themes extend through both narratives – both are stories of rescue. I’m becoming more and more convinced that identifying and being nourished by these major “gospel” themes or pictures that occur in the Old Testament narratives is the primary way we should read the Old Testament. I think that’s Jesus’ point in Luke 24:25-27 – the whole Old Testament is about him.

We get ourselves into all sorts of trouble when we try and apply specific details in the Old Testament narrative directly to ourselves. I’m not saying you can never derive personal application from the lives of the characters or God’s dealings with them, but I am saying that that’s not the primary way to read your Old Testament. The primary way to read it is to see the many pictures, echoes and visions of Jesus and his atoning work in the stories and to rejoice and be nourished by the gospel of grace to which all those pictures, echoes and visions point. God’s greatest rescue plan echoes through every poem, every character and every story in the Old Testament pages. Read those pages and let it echo through your life.

Tomorrow’s reading is Exodus 5:1-8:32

Readings for Week 4

Readings for next week…

January (Week 4)

Sun 21st Gen 47:29 – 50:26

Mon 22nd Ex 1:1 – 4:31

Tue 23rd Ex 5:1 – 8:32

Wed 24th Ex 9:1 – 11:10

Thurs 25th Ex 12:1 – 13:16

Fri 26th Ex 13:17 – 15:21

Sat 27th Ex 15:22 – 18:27

20th January: Blessing Inside and Out

I’m back. I trust some of you are still soldiering through your readings? I missed two more days than I’d hoped for during this period, but that’s life. In fact this is probably a good time to talk about sticking to the reading programme. The readings are there as a guide to help you read your Bible and enjoy reading your Bible. They are there to help you gain a little bit of discipline in your reading schedule. But they are not there to help you justify yourself spiritually. So if you miss some here or there don’t beat yourself up over it. If you get to a point where you feel like your whole day is going to suck because you missed your reading that morning then you’re in a bad place because you’ve failed to understand the central message of what you’re reading: Jesus justifies – not you! So keep that in mind as you read along. To use the cliche: Reading plans like this are great servants but terrible masters. Let the gospel master you, not the plan.

Bible Reading: Genesis 45:16-47:28

I hope it has become clear to you over the past few days that the story of Joseph is a story of rescue and preservation – God keeping and blessing his people in the face of danger. It is certainly a picture of the great rescue that comes to us through the cross of Christ. Jesus is the better Joseph who leads out of spiritual famine into spiritual wholeness and blessing.

What’s interesting in this little epilogue to the story is that the blessing extends beyond Jacob and his descendants to the Egyptians too. Not only is the fledgling Israelite nation rescued but the Egyptians receive a partial blessing as a result. This pattern is evident in a few places in the Bible. It’s almost as if God’s saving work amongst his people spills over a little to the rest of the world. I wonder if that’s not true of the church today. Where God is at work calling people through his gospel, where that gospel takes root and produces fruit, we encounter blessing spilling out beyond the walls of the Christian community to those on the outside. In fact I wonder if it’s not even something of a litmus test for churches as to whether or not the gospel is taking root and producing fruit. Are you and your church being something of a blessing to those on the outside just through sheer virtue of living consistently with the truth of the gospel?

Tomorrow’s reading is Genesis 47:29-50:26

18th January

Ok – give me one more day off. Just got home from the hospital this afternoon and making sure that mom and baby are settled. I’ll pick the honest Bible again tomorrow. Keep reading and keep sharing thoughts. Cheers.

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