Idolatry sounds archaic. Images of ancient carved statues surface in our minds. But idols are far more than stone. The Bible speaks with clarity on idolatry. God, himself, ranked this sin at the top of the Ten Commandments (Exo. 20:3). The New Testament writers say, we should flee from it (1 Cor. 10:14) and we should guard ourselves from idols (1 Jn. 5:21). But what is idolatry? How would modern man identify an idol?
Idols hide in the corridors of our heart. They manifest themselves through our thoughts and actions. The Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Col. 3:5) Did you catch this list of sins, “which amounts to idolatry?”
In the past, the outworking of an idolatrous heart presented itself in handmade deities. Worshippers devoted their lives to a product of their own making. We may not hold a graven idol in our hands, but if we give our preeminent devotion to anything other than God, it is idolatry. Our relationships, careers, and even ministries can become an idol.
If we are not diligent to examine our inner life, our hearts will erect an altar of offense to God. We need to see the truth of John Calvin’s statement that the “human heart is a factory of idols.” We must allow the Spirit to walk through the hallways of our heart. Giving Him access to enter any door He knocks.
If you refuse to heed the rapping of the Spirit, you are guilty of idolatry. Christ should possess preeminence in every aspect of our lives. We have all ignored the Spirit, but God is gracious to uproot idols and continue His work in us (Php. 1:6). Believers have a guarantee of forgiveness, if we confess our sins (1 Jn. 1:9). The knock at the door of your heart will only grow louder. For God is jealous and will not share His glory with another (Isa. 42:8). Will you get that knock at the door?
The entire Israelite community left the Wilderness of Sin, moving from one place to the next according to the Lord’s command. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.2 So the people complained to Moses, “Give us water to drink.”“Why are you complaining to me?” Moses replied to them. “Why are you testing the Lord?”3 But the people thirsted there for water and grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you ever bring us up from Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with these people? In a little while they will stone me!”5 The Lord answered Moses, “Go on ahead of the people and take some of the elders of Israel with you. Take the staff you struck the Nile with in your hand and go. 6 I am going to stand there in front of you on the rock at Horeb; when you hit the rock, water will come out of it and the people will drink.” Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He named the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites complained, and because they tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
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God’s provision often comes from the unlikeliest source.
Complaints had reached a feverish pitch. The elders of Israel stared at Moses as mutinous imaginations bubbled to the surface of the minds. Some younger men in the crowd, with their feet, loosened fist-size rocks with from their earthy bed. A few of them already wielded stones with white-knuckled grasp. Moses felt their gaze burrowing into his back, and their complaints filled his ears. All Moses could think was, water from a rock? Nevertheless, he trusted Yahweh’s instructions.
After wiping the sweat from his brow, Moses stretched the rod of God to the heavens bringing it down on the rock with an echoing crack. The mob of mad Hebrews winced at the deafening blow. The murmuring slowly halted. In the silent moment, the sound of water grew from a faint trickle to a gushing crescendo of living water. God had given the provision of water from the unlikeliest source. Life-sustaining water flowed from a rock.
In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul affirms that the rock “was Christ.” Who would have considered a carpenter born of seeming scandal in Bethlehem, raise a Nazarene, would build a bridge to glory? Can anything good come from Nazareth? Jesus of Nazareth was struck for us. From His suffering, flows living water for all that believe. Some may wonder why God chose this method, but He delights in using the unlikeliest means to accomplish His will. Have you drunk from the Fount, which is Christ?
Lord, thank you for Christ’s sacrifice. Help me to realize today that my help may come from the unlikeliest source. In Jesus Name, Amen.
In the Word Together is a devotional blog series based on the Narrative Lectionary that aims to aid in daily devotions. Unless stated, all posts are written by Kevin W. Bounds. Necessary attributions are as follows:
The entire Israelite community departed from Elim and came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left the land of Egypt. 2 The entire Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger!”
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. This way I will test them to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.”
6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites: “This evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt,7 and in the morning you will see the Lord’s glory because he has heard your complaints about him. For who are we that you complain about us?” 8 Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat this evening and all the bread you want in the morning, for he has heard the complaints that you are raising against him. Who are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord.”
9 Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your complaints.’” 10 As Aaron was speaking to the entire Israelite community, they turned toward the wilderness, and there in a cloud the Lord’s glory appeared.
11 The Lord spoke to Moses, 12 “I have heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them: At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will eat bread until you are full. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”
13 So at evening quail came and covered the camp. In the morning there was a layer of dew all around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew evaporated, there were fine flakes on the desert surface, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they asked one another, “What is it?” because they didn’t know what it was.
Moses told them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each person needs to eat. You may take two quarts[b] per individual, according to the number of people each of you has in his tent.’”
17 So the Israelites did this. Some gathered a lot, some a little. 18 When they measured it by quarts,[c] the person who gathered a lot had no surplus, and the person who gathered a little had no shortage. Each gathered as much as he needed to eat. 19 Moses said to them, “No one is to let any of it remain until morning.” 20 But they didn’t listen to Moses; some people left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. Therefore Moses was angry with them.
21 They gathered it every morning. Each gathered as much as he needed to eat, but when the sun grew hot, it melted.
God desires daily dependence.
“What is it?” asked every quail-filled Hebrew. Bewildered, in the dawning light, they gazed at the frostlike substance blanketing the desert sands. With slow-reaching hand, some gathered it for closer inspection. While inhaling the scent of this foreign substance smiles formed on their faces. It was the promised bread of heaven.
“It tastes like honey… and…umm…wafers,” declared one from the camp.
After this Moses and Aaron instructed the people on how to collect and keep heaven’s provision. They were to depend on this regular distribution, except on the Sabbath. God was testing their obedience. Would they come to Him daily for fresh nourishment? Unfortunately, some tried to preserve the manna, but it spoiled filling the camp with a foul smell.
Many people are merely surviving on what God provided yesterday. They are living in the “glory days” of yesteryear. Put the stale bread down. God wants you to encounter His fresh grace and thrive each every day.
Are you living off a previous Sunday sermon? Or are you engaging the Scriptures every day? When is the last time you felt the wind of the Spirit rush over your soul? Has hunger pangs become normal for you? Like the Israelites, God desires your daily dependence.
Lord, forgive me for attempting to live off of past experiences. Your grace is renewed every day. I need a freshness in my walk with You. In Jesus name, Amen.
In the Word Together is a daily devotional blog series based on the Narrative Lectionary that aims to aid parents in leading family devotions. Unless stated, all posts are written by Kevin W. Bounds. Necessary attributions are as follows:
22 Then Moses led Israel on from the Red Sea, and they went out to the Wilderness of
Shur. They journeyed for three days in the wilderness without finding water. 23 They came to Marah, but they could not drink the water at Marah because it was bitter—that is why it was named Marah. 24 The people grumbled to Moses, “What are we going to drink?” 25 So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he threw it into the water, the water became drinkable.
The Lord made a statute and ordinance for them at Marah, and he tested them there. 26 He said, “If you will carefully obey the Lord your God, do what is right in his sight, pay attention to his commands, and keep all his statutes, I will not inflict any illnesses on you that I inflicted on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”
27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy date palms, and they camped there by the water.
Obedience during trials is the key to God’s blessing.
Sun-baked skin ached. The tongues of the Israelites cleaved to the roof of their mouths. Three days passed but there was no refilling of their wineskins. Where was this Moses – the “man of God” – leading them? At least the taskmasters in Egypt gave them water when they labored in the heat of the day. But this Moses, and his unseen God, marched them without refreshment. Murmurs rippled.
Then on the horizon… could it be? Was it a mirage? Excitement overtook some as they ran for the seeming lifespring but with one large gulp, it was bitter. One Hebrew shouts in disgust, “Marah!” The low murmur morphs into a borderline mutiny. What was God up to?!?
Much like the Israelites, you will experience the sour taste of disappointment. When following God, your taste buds will revolt and want to reject the source of your spiritual refreshing. However, it is how you handle these periods of testing that will determine your level of blessing.
We, like Moses, must seek God’s direction during the seasons of bitter testing. After praying, God directed Moses to cast a tree in the salty waters. This tree sapped the salinity away. The pool, that if consumed would produce death, now provided life! The Lord issued a statute and ordinance that day that if His people would obey they would experience His abundant blessing.
You may not be in a physical desert, but if your soul is dry, there is fresh water for you. Moses sweetened the waters of Marah by hurling a tree in its midst. You too can freshen the saltiness of life with a tree. In your trials, focus on the cross of Christ, for from it flows living water. Knowing that God loved us enough to endure the embarrassment and the torture of Golgotha should refresh your weary soul.
In your trial, pray to God for grace and guidance. For obedience is the key to experiencing God’s abundant blessing. Do not fall into rebellion, but rather submit to the trial with joy. God has not forsaken you. Look to the cross, and you will witness His love again.
Lord, like Moses at Marah, allow me to pray for guidance and surrender to your will. Give me the grace to not lose sight of the tree that gives me life. In Jesus name, Amen.
In the Word Together is a daily devotional blog series based on the Narrative Lectionary that aims in aiding parents in family devotions. Unless stated, all posts are written by Kevin W. Bounds. Necessary attributions are as follows:
Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord. They said:
I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted; he has thrown the horse and its rider into the sea. 2 The Lord is my strength and my song;[a] he has become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. 3 The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.
4 He threw Pharaoh’s chariots and his army into the sea; the elite of his officers were drowned in the Red Sea. 5 The floods covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. 6 Lord, your right hand is glorious in power. Lord, your right hand shattered the enemy. 7 You overthrew your adversaries by your great majesty. You unleashed your burning wrath; it consumed them like stubble. 8 The water heaped up at the blast from your nostrils; the currents stood firm like a dam. The watery depths congealed in the heart of the sea. 9 The enemy said: “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil. My desire will be gratified at their expense. I will draw my sword; my hand will destroy[b] them.” 10 But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.
11 Lord, who is like you among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness, revered with praises, performing wonders? 12 You stretched out your right hand, and the earth swallowed them. 13 With your faithful love, you will lead the people you have redeemed; you will guide them to your holy dwelling with your strength.
14 When the peoples hear, they will shudder; anguish will seize the inhabitants of Philistia. 15 Then the chiefs of Edom will be terrified; trembling will seize the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan will panic; 16 terror and dread will fall on them. They will be as still[c] as a stone because of your powerful arm until your people pass by, Lord, until the people whom you purchased[d] pass by.
17 You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your possession; Lord, you have prepared the place for your dwelling; Lord,[e] your hands have established the sanctuary. 18 The Lord will reign forever and ever!
19 When Pharaoh’s horses with his chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the water of the sea back over them. But the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. 20 Then the prophetess Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women came out following her with tambourines and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them:
Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted; he has thrown the horse and its rider into the sea.
An eerie silence rests on the crowded shore framed only by the sound of the unsettled waters. Astonishment filled the atmosphere; not a word was spoken. As the Israelites gaze across the frothy Red Sea, a chariot wheel surfaces tumbling in the surf. Then one by one, lifeless Egyptian bodies wash ashore. Their Egyptian captors were gone. Yahweh had delivered them like Moses foretold.
Silence gives way to the singing. Moses leads the redeemed throng in a mass chorus of praise. This is a sweet song of redemption. God blazed a path through the impassable Red Sea. Dry sandals began to step in rhythm. They were tasting the freedom Yahweh promised!
The Song of Moses recorded in the Exodus 15:1-21 inspired the Israelites for generations. It was their anthem of deliverance; a song of redemption. It’s not only their song but ours too. This anthem will be sung by the redeemed in heaven (see Revelation 15:3).
Songs have the power to inspire worship, instruct us in righteousness, and reminds us of our redemption. We are commanded in Scripture to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (see Colossians 3:16). You may be facing a mountain of opposition, but God is on your side. As a child of God, it will only take a moment to think of a time when God parted your Red Sea situation. Remember? Why not praise him in advance?
What is your song of redemption? Amazing Grace? How Great Thou Art? What a Beautiful Name? It may even be an original tune God has given you. Sing it loud. He is worthy of our praise and adoration. You will come out of your situation with dry sandals for sure! Will sing for His glory today?
Lord, thank you for your redemption. Although I face situations that seem impossible, help me sing your praise. In Christ’s name, Amen.
In the Word Together is a daily devotional blog series based on the Narrative Lectionary. Unless stated, all posts are written by Kevin W. Bounds. Necessary attributions are as follows: Used by Permission
What is an encouraging characteristic of the Bible? Read more to find out.
89 LORD, your word is forever; it is firmly fixed in heaven. 90 Your faithfulness is for all generations; you established the earth, and it stands firm.91 Your judgments stand firm today for all things are your servants. 92 If your instruction had not been my delight, I would have died in my affliction. 93 I will never forget your precepts, for you have given me life through them. 94 I am yours; save me, for I have studied your precepts. 95 The wicked hope to destroy me, but I contemplate your decrees. 96 I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your command is without limit. Psalm 119:89-96 (CSB)
Be encouraged! God’s Word is firmly fixed in heaven.
What does David mean when he says, ” LORD, your word is forever; it is firmly fixed in heaven” (89). Eugene Peterson’s rendering illuminates the meaning of this verse. Peterson translates it as, “What you say goes, GOD, and stays, as permanent as the heavens.”Psalm 119:89 (MSG) In other words, God is sovereign and what He decrees is settled. Nothing can change it!
What difference does that make for us as believers? God’s Word is full of promises for us. Paul says, “For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in him. Therefore, through him we also say “Amen” to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:20 (CSB) If you find a promise in the Bible, then you can stand on it. God will come through for you! We should all be encouraged by the fact God’s Word is firmly fixed in heaven.
Suggestion for Prayer
Thank God for His sovereign decrees and ask for the faith to keep believing!
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