Free of Rebellion

Most children have happy plans for their future. Kids dream of a good life and expect it to happen. And that desire is right. Sadly, many children are not taught how to truly live well. The fifth commandment—“Honor your father and your mother” (Ex. 20:12)—promises a good life (Eph. 6:2). The law’s second table starts with a practical code “that leads us to the right perspective on values, responsibility, respect, and honor in all kinds of relationships.”[i] Put negatively, rebellious children can expect lifelong power struggles, ultimately against God himself.

And this code isn’t just for children; no matter our age we must respect “all those in authority” over us. Our relation to authorities matters because God establishes authorities (Rom. 13:1, 2), empowers authorities (John 19:11), rules over authorities (Eph. 6:9), and rules through authorities (Is. 44:28). How we relate to leadership reveals our relationship to God (Col. 3:22). This is why God’s stance against rebels is so stern (Ex. 21:17; Num. 12:1–9; Rom. 13:4). God applies this commandment to children so that they would start young in learning to submit to every kind of legitimate oversight.[ii] But it is never too late to begin enjoying a blessed life through obedience to God and his structure of authority.
We Must Honor Authorities

The precise wording of the commandment is important; honor is a recognition of significance, a sense of glory, well-placed respect. So honor gets to our attitude toward superiors. This is the right place to start because attitude always drives actions. God isn’t looking for mere external obedience. In both Testaments he chastens people for saying the right things and performing the right actions with the wrong attitudes (Is. 29:13; Matt. 15:7–9). David’s enemies “bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse” (Ps. 62:4). God doesn’t want that. External actions alone do not constitute obedience. Human authorities will often accept unfeeling compliance. Your boss might not care about your heart attitude. He just wants your performance. But God will not accept cold-hearted, disinterested conformity to his rule. To truly obey we must “show honor, love, and faithfulness to … all those in authority” over us. Those we love will feel the warmth of our hearts. Faithfulness is dependability; but it isn’t perfunctory. It is heartfelt.

Good leaders are easy to honor; they do nothing to exasperate their inferiors (Eph. 6:4). A godly authority helps those under his charge to say, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Honor should not be merely commanded but also invited, assisted, and rewarded. But even when leaders make honor hard, our regard for God and his gracious authority can help us do what is right. Paul once apologized for accurately calling the high priest a “whitewashed wall.” “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people’” (Acts 23:5). The way to honor dishonorable authorities starts by recognizing God’s pervasive authority.

How must children obey authorities as a pattern for the proper obedience of everyone?

Children must heed their parents’ “good teaching” (Prov. 1:8).

Parents are wiser and more experienced than children. They can see deeper and farther. They have witnessed and personally committed youthful mistakes. Parents know sin’s consequences. Even when parents misjudge in their leadership, God will honor children’s “proper obedience.” Children must obey their parents—as though God spoke through them—without complaining, arguing, deceiving, or delaying.

Children must submit to their parents’ correction.

Parents must discipline; failure to do so is evidence of hatred, even if subconscious (Prov. 13:24). The best kind of discipline is painful, swift, brief, and loving. It should prove that sin hurts but that it is also forgivable (Heb. 12:9–11). And children must willingly receive parental correction: not throwing fits when disciplined, not grumbling when forced to work or pay restitution, not secretly bad-mouthing their folks. Parents will answer to God for how they discipline (Col. 3:21). Children will answer to God for how they receive discipline.

Children must not obey their parents sinfully.

Human authorities are also under authority; their commands cannot exceed their God-given mandate. When Paul commands children to obey their parents “in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord” (Col. 3:20), he is writing to Christian parents who are bound to instruct their children in God’s will. If parents ignore God’s rule, they are behaving “not as parents, but as strangers who are trying to lead us away from obedience to our true Father.”[iii] Children must submit to the “good teaching and discipline” of parents and render “proper obedience.” But no authority trumps God’s authority (Acts. 4:19, 20; 5:29).

Leaders have shortcomings. Parents and other pace-setters should imitate the “holy men of God” who wrote the Bible (2 Peter 1:21 KJV) and be honest about their failings; Peter helped Mark write about his denial of Christ (Mark 14:66–72). One of the worst things we could do is try to mask over our faults. Only spiritually honest parents can teach their children to put no confidence in the flesh, and help them take their failings to Jesus.

But the failures of authorities do not excuse rebellion. Paul exhorts servants to be submissive to their masters, “not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh” (1 Pet. 2:18). Why is this God’s will for children? A child’s submission to even deeply-flawed parents can preserve harmony in the family. If children always push back against parental weaknesses, home life would be unbearable. And the quiet patience of children can have a life-changing influence on their folks (cf. 1 Peter 3:1). When we are patient toward imperfect leaders, we please God and experience growth in godliness. All of us are tested by the shortcomings of our authorities. In our frustration over their failures, we are led to pray for their weaknesses and our own (1 Tim. 2:2).

The fifth commandment promises blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. In this way it is not only a code of conduct, but also a conduit to Christ. None of us completely kills our rebellious spirit; the end of the law is not our obedience but is instead Jesus, who kept the fifth commandment perfectly. He submitted himself to the correction of the cross—even though he had done nothing wrong, and had always shown “honor, love, and faithfulness” to God. Through the cross he gained for penitent believers their eternal life in a good land. In light of God’s mercy, he calls us to honor authority. Those who do will not be disappointed.

William Boekestein

It Wasn’t Yours Anyway

Our giving can feel empty sometimes, can’t it? Perhaps it’s because we have been wounded by frenzied sermons on giving or the pulsing belief that if we’re not giving everything, we’re disobeying the demand of a greedy God. Giving can feel like a form of karma; we cross our fingers and hope as we give that it will be given back to us in equal or greater measure. Or it can feel like checking a box, doing our duty as Christians. Or perhaps, we withhold giving to the Lord because we don’t trust Him with our finances, our security, or our portion. 

I have been to all those places. There have been years of my life when I was living paycheck to paycheck, barely scraping by, certain I couldn’t afford to give anything to the Lord. And then other years of my life when I was indifferent to the needs of others. But then, nearly a decade ago, when my check-the-box giving had dwindled to nothing, and my indifference had grown to an insurmountable level, God began to teach me that there was something He wanted far, far more than my money; He wanted my heart and my spirit. 

In this passage we see the detailed list of what the people of God brought to help build and adorn the tabernacle. Moses is attentive in his communication of what God desired and also what the people gave. This is saying something about God: He cares about the details of our lives, what we can give and what He created us to give. No two gifts are exactly alike. It is as if Moses is saying: your gift matters because you matter to God. He cares about the knitting of your heart and the crafting of your hands, the things you make and the livelihood He’s given you. And because we can know He cares about these things, our hearts are moved by that love and, in obedience to the Spirit inside of us, we can freely give. 

There’s nothing obligatory or forced about this kind of offering. God alone can move in our heart and prompt our spirit to bring what we have as an offering to Him (Exodus 35:21). We give because He first gave to us. It is not—as some angry preachers shout from lofted pulpits—because we owe God everything, but simply because everything we have is owned already by God. Offering all we have to the Lord is only possible because He already gave everything to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

What is in your hands today? How has God uniquely crafted you, knit you together, formed you, and made you? What stirs your heart and your affections for Him? For the Church? For your brothers and sisters? What moves your heart toward God? Give Him the gifts of your heart, your passion, your provision. That’s what He’s asking for: the gift of your delight and cheerful giving.  

Lore Ferguson Wilbert

Interrupting a Funeral

When the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”   Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” Luke 7:13-14

The coming of the kingdom of God was not heralded by spectacular and dramatic victories over the powers and authorities of the world but through something much more transformative: the great compassion of its King.

Throughout their accounts of Jesus, the Gospel writers present us with encounter after encounter demonstrating Christ’s unparalleled compassion. In these incidents, Christ’s power is revealed as His compassion is extended. In chapter 7 of his Gospel, for instance, Luke highlights Jesus’ compassionate response to a sorrowful widow—a response which clears any doubts about His greatness.

The woman in this part of Luke’s narrative was in true need. Her husband was already gone, and now her son had just died. In an ancient Middle-Eastern society, this meant that she had no means of protection or provision. She faced a life of sadness, loneliness, and precariousness—and then the end of the family line.

But then Jesus entered into the extremity of this woman’s life, and “when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”

All it took to arouse the compassion of our tender Shepherd was seeing this grieving woman. Literally, that word “compassion” means “His bowels moved”—our equivalent would be “His stomach churned.” When Jesus, through whom and for whom all things were created, sees sadness and grief in this broken world, He feels it. Here is a King who cares deeply.

Even more beautiful is that Jesus had the power to meet this widow’s need, and so He chose to do something only He could do: to bring the dead back to life. He didn’t just restore a deceased son alive again to a mourning mother and thereby meet her need and obliterate her grief, though. More importantly, Jesus revealed Himself to the crowd (and to us!) in all of His power, kindness, and authority—even authority over death.

Scenes such as this show us that Jesus doesn’t simply comment on or cry over sickness and death, those great enemies of mankind. He overcomes them. He hears the cries of the sorrowful, and He comforts them, not only in an earthly, temporal sense but also in a final, perfect, and eternal way, by offering Himself as the means of salvation to all who believe.

Your King is not merely infinitely powerful; He is infinitely compassionate. And the combination of those two qualities in Him is sufficient to bring you through every sadness and grief of this world, until you stand in His presence and He wipes every tear from your eye.

Alistair Begg

A Simple Reason for Our National Depravity

Few in the body of Christ would deny that America has fallen into unprecedented moral depravity. The question is, who is to blame? Is it the politicians? Hollywood? The liberal media? I’m inclined to think that we should lay a big part of the blame on the pulpits of the nation. Let me tell you why.

In July of 2022, the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner determined a cause of death in socialite Ivana Trump’s sudden death. She suffered blunt impact injuries to her torso from falling down a staircase in her home. According to authorities, her body was found next to a spilled cup of coffee.

Every year in the United States there are 12,000 deaths that result from falling down stairs. There would be very few if people determined to never let go of the handrail. But, they don’t always hold on to that rail—because they underestimate the power of gravity. It’s an unseen killer.

The fear of God is the handrail of which we must never let go. This is because we are surrounded by invisible forces that have proven to be deadly. After describing the universal depravity of man in Romans 3, Paul gives us the reason for all the wickedness of this world in verses 10-18:

As it is written:
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
“Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
|“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Why doesn’t this world understand? Why are they so filled with deceit, cursing, bitterness, and never-ending violence? Because there is no fear of God before their eyes. Sadly, the doctrine of the fear of the Lord is frowned on by many in the contemporary Church. God is love and, therefore, shouldn’t be feared. But Scripture says differently. It tells us that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Those who don’t fear God haven’t even begun to get wise. It also tells us that the fear of God is what causes men and women to depart from evil (Proverbs 16:6).

“Sadly, the doctrine of the fear of the Lord is frowned on by many in the contemporary Church. God is love and, therefore, shouldn’t be feared. But Scripture says differently.”

After the Apostle Paul describes the wickedness of human nature, he prescribes the cure. The following verse gives us the answer to the problem of evil that’s caused by a lack of the fear of God. It tells us of the function of God’s Law. Preached lawfully, the moral Law has the ability to put the fear of God into the hearts of careless and sin-loving sinners.

But, modern preachers have failed to do this, and that has resulted in a Church that has no fear of God. That has further resulted in a lack of moral influence upon the nation. We have lost our saltiness. Jesus said that flavorless salt is “good for nothing but to be…trampled underfoot by men” (Matthew 5:13). And that’s the state of the modern Church in America. It has become irrelevant. Meanwhile, the world sinks further into moral depravity.

All this has happened because thousands of the unsaved have entered our pulpits. We no longer suspect this. We now know it to be true. Dr. George Barna recently released research revealing that at least one-third of senior pastors in the United States believe we can earn a place in Heaven by being a good person. Other pastors said that moral truth is subjective, fornication is “morally acceptable,” and biblical teaching on the slaughter of babies in the womb is “ambiguous.” They have forgotten about the Sixth Commandment.

These findings reveal that these pastors are not regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Their convictions fly in the face of the words of Jesus Himself (see John 14:6). They, therefore, believe in a different Jesus and preach another gospel:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.  And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13-16)

May God raise up faithful shepherds who will fearlessly and faithfully preach righteousness in the great congregation.

Assumptions of Heaven

I think we are all guilty at times of importing our understanding of earth into our assumptions of heaven. We are all guilty of importing our understanding of how things work here to how they will work there. We look at the world we know and extrapolate to the one we don’t. I sometimes fear, though, that our thoughts of heaven are actually marred by our experiences of earth.

I have often heard people speak of those who are in heaven and use language such as “the people closest to the throne” or maybe those who “have the biggest mansions” or those who are given “the greatest reward.” And certainly there seems to be some variety to the degree of the rewards God will dispense to his people—though variety that will neither swell the hearts of those who receive more nor provoke the hearts of those who receive less (if that is, indeed, the way things work).

When I hear people use language like “those closest to the throne,” they almost invariably speak of people who are known and famous, who are acknowledged by other believers to have accomplished a lot for the Lord and for his purposes. Surely that one who preached so faithfully to such great crowds and that one who wrote books that sold so well and that one who served so committedly and so publicly—surely they are the ones who are counted great in the kingdom. Surely they are the ones who receive the greatest honor in heaven. After all, they are the ones who received the greatest honor on earth. If God’s people held them in such high esteem here, why wouldn’t God hold them in similarly high esteem there?

Yet I can’t help but wonder if this betrays a pattern of thinking that doesn’t understand the mind and heart of God—that assumes that the most public gifts are the most important and that God gives the most important gifts to his most favored people. Or that there is a necessary connection between the visibility of a gift and its value in his eyes.

Are we certain that the gifts we count as most important are the ones that God counts as most important? Do we know that a gift for preaching is more important than a gift of encouragement? Are we certain that the man who preaches before tens of thousands of strangers in a conference venue ranks higher than the woman who intercedes for mere tens or hundreds from the privacy of her home? Are we certain that the one who leads the church in worship is really far ahead of the one who prepares the church by shoveling its sidewalks and setting up its chairs? That the one who labors in the pulpit is doing more important work than the one who labors in her prayer closet?

Jesus told us to be like little children, not like great celebrities. He didn’t tell us to be famous, but to be faithful, not to revel in the applause of men but to long for the affirmation of God. Our responsibility is to exercise the gifts and embrace the duties God has given us, no matter what they are, no matter how public, no matter how visible. We have no business wishing away the gifts God has given to us and no business envying the gifts he has given to someone else. We are to labor with diligence and entrust it all to God.

I am convinced that if there are some who receive a particularly great reward, it will be those who were most faithful with what they were given, whether it was much or little, visible or invisible, acknowledged by others or completely overlooked. The man who lived a life of quiet faithfulness in the humblest of jobs will surely receive God’s commendation ahead of many of those who wore fine vestments and who stood in ornate pulpits. The woman who served with excellence in an invisible ministry will surely be acknowledged ahead of the one who brought mediocrity to the most visible.

The fact is, there is no reason at all to think that the foremost preachers or most famous theologians will be received most joyfully in heaven, for God measures these things so differently from the way we do. In his eyes it’s not the visibility of the gift that matters, but the diligence with which it is embraced and exercised. And this puts the onus on each of us to ask how and where God has called us to serve his purposes, then to serve then and there in his strength and for his glory, joyfully entrusting it all to him.

Tim Challies

Where Does My Help Come From?

The Bible is awash with anguished cries for help from humans in need. While on a grueling, uphill pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the psalmist asked, “Where does my help come from?” (Psalm 121:1). Suffering in desolation and misery, Job wondered, “Does not one in a heap of ruins stretch out his hand, and in his disaster cry for help?” (Job 30:24, ESV). Job later acknowledged, “I stand up in the assembly and cry for help” (Job 30:28).

“From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,” prayed Jonah from his underwater prison cell inside the belly of a great fish (Jonah 2:2). “Where can I go for help?” and “Where does my help come from?” These are universal appeals for help from within the heart of humanity.

The resounding answer to this widespread plea is, “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). Perhaps better than any other passage in the Bible, Psalm 121 illuminates how God, the all-powerful Creator and ever-present Protector, is the only real and trustworthy source of help for humankind.

This collective human call for help is proof that people need a Savior (Romans 3:23). We are born lost in our sin (Isaiah 59:2). Yet, within the soul of every person, God has placed an awareness of lack, of needing something more—an internal, eternal longing (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Deep inside, we know we cannot save ourselves (Romans 3:10–20; 4:1–12). Our hearts cry out to God, “Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!” (Psalm 44:26, ESV).

When the psalmist proffered the question, “Where does my help come from?” he was not asking from a place of perplexity or doubt. No, he spoke in prayerful expectation. He trusted that God the Creator was tirelessly watching over him, sleeplessly protecting him. He knew the help he longed for would come from the Lord: “He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:3–4).

Sadly, the human tendency is to look for help in all the wrong places. We try to solve our problems in our own strength or according to the wisdom of the world. We phone our parents when we need someone to bail us out. We look to friends for companionship or a spouse to satisfy the longing in our souls. We seek success and self-esteem from our careers. We turn to drugs and alcohol to fill the emptiness inside. We attempt to find happiness or even just ways to cope by experimenting with everything this world offers. But all these solutions fall short. What we need most is to cry out, “Help me, LORD my God; save me according to your unfailing love” (Psalm 109:26).

Like the prophet Isaiah, we can stand firm knowing where our help comes from, or better Whom it comes from: “Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7, NLT).

The psalmist affirmed, “The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night” (Psalm 121:5–6). No matter what we face, day or night, the Lord stands over us as a protective shield. Through every trial and storm, God is our constant shelter and refuge (Psalm 46:1; 91:1; Proverbs 18:10). Our good and loving Lord will protect us from every evil (Psalm 121:7).

If a believer should ask you, “Where does my help come from?” You can offer them this remarkable assurance: At all times, no matter where you go, and for as long as you live, the Bible declares, “Your help comes from the Lord!” (Psalm 121:8).

A Prayer for Ian

  “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your comfort delights my soul’ (giving me perspective, peace, and trust). (Psalm 94:19). “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (or live in the cone of the hurricane), I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

Lord Jesus, as the sun comes up to today, so are the winds of Hurricane Ian. We own our fears, state our worries, and come to your occupied throne of grace. We pray for the people of Cuba and Florida—especially for the most vulnerable, the elderly, and children. Loss of property is one thing; loss of life is a whole different category. We also pray for first responders, already at work.

Like the Psalmist, our anxious thoughts are multiplying. Thank you for being present before, during, and after Hurricane Ian—and every other type of “hurricane.” Some hurricanes happen in the environment. Others blow into our homes, health, and hearts. There’s not a day we don’t need you, Jesus, nor a day you aren’t with us and for us.

We know we don’t have to ask “Why?” big storms come to us—as though those in the cone of the hurricane (or some other crisis) are more deserving of major life-disruption than others (Matt. 5:45). The most timely question we can ask is, “Who can we love, serve, and help?” For, “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love” (Gal. 5:6).

May neighbor-love be on full display—transcending everything that normally divides us. Rescue us, Jesus, if not from the storm by it. In the coming days, may we be joyful servants, mercy conduits, and grace dispensers. So Very Amen we pray.

Scotty Smith

The Groan and Grind of Life

If tears were indelible ink instead of clear fluid, all of us would be stained for life. The heartbreaking circumstances, the painful encounters with calamities, the brutal verbal blows we receive from the surgeon or an angry mate, the sudden loss of someone we simply adored, riding out the consequences of a stupid decision—ah! Such is the groan and grind of life.

At the time of this writing, there are families less than one hour away from me with no homes to return to tonight. A freakish landslide swept them away like a sand castle at high tide. Not a fire. Not an earthquake. Not even a warning tremor. Just an unheard-of sudden slippage of soil and fifteen million dollars of damage . . . and unerasable memories. I dare you to ponder their plight for two minutes without being ripped apart inside.

A letter arrived today from Portland. Nicely typed. Carefully worded. But behind the print, bone-deep grief:

My life has been turned upside down in the last two years and God has not left me much time to catch my breath! My husband was killed in a military plane crash in Greenland a year ago, and I have two young sons, 7 and 9, who are my responsibility alone now.

My phone rang in the middle of the night a few weeks ago. With a quivering voice the young man who chose not to identify himself began:

I have a gun. It is loaded. I plan to use it on myself tonight. Somebody told me you could help me. I don't see any reason to keep on living and failing. Tell me why I shouldn't kill myself. [He began to sob.] Talk to me, fast . . .

Dear old Joseph Parker, a fervid pulpit orator and fine pastor and author for several decades, said it well three years before he died:

There's a broken heart in every pew. Preach to the sorrowing and you will never lack for a congregation.

Percy Bysshe Shelley was right. He personified Sorrow as a mother “with her family of Sighs.” And so she is. Stooped and weary of the monotony, yet ever bearing more children only to sigh and cry and die.

Without God—end of message. Finis. Termination of misery. Curtains. It is here humanism puts its final period. It is here philosophy takes its last bow. The only encore to death, to borrow from Robert Ingersoll’s words of horror, is:

"the echo of a wailing cry."

But that need not be the end. Life, with all its pressures and inequities, tears and tragedies, can be lived on a level above its miseries. If it could not, Christianity has little to offer. Jesus is reduced to nothing more than an apologetic beggar at the back door with His hat in His hands and a hard-luck story you can take or leave.

No—don’t you believe it! It is upon the platform of pressure that our Lord does His best work . . . those times when tragedy joins hands with calamity . . . when Satan and a host of demons prompt us to doubt God’s goodness and deny His justice. At such times Christ unsheathes His sword of truth, silencing the doubts and offering grace to accept, hope to continue.

Hear Him well:

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4)

Not a reluctant hunch. Not some fairy-tale dream . . . but an accomplished fact as solid as granite and twice as sure—overcoming victory claimed by faith!

Is it for everyone? No. The majority? No. Read it again. It’s only for those who are “born of God” . . . only God’s born-ones are the overcomers.

Does it mean, then, that we won’t have sorrow? No. It means we’ll be able to overcome it . . . live in His victory in spite of it. How? By faith, just as He promised. By staking my hope on the absolute assurance that He is aware of my situation. He is in charge of it . . . and He will give all the grace I need to sail through it, rough seas and all, one stormy day at a time.

Sorrow and her grim family of sighs may drop by for a visit, but they won’t stay long when they realize faith got there first . . . and doesn’t plan to leave.

Chuck Swindoll

Manna or Maggots

We eat lest we die. Hunger is a powerful and persistent reminder that we are not God. We are not all-sufficient. We need food in order to live and stay alive.

Food is not a reward in Scripture. Food is grace. In this world, food is often a reward for doing something good. We reward children with lollipops if they behave at the doctor’s office. We reward ourselves with desserts at the end of a long day. In contrast, God feeds his people when they least deserve his kindness.

Unlike the way of the world, the Lord meets the needs of his people by feeding them food before or after they disobey, and sometimes even as they are rebelling. Think of some of the often-told stories about food in Scripture:

God rained bread from heaven after Israel grumbled and complained.
An angel baked warm bread over hot stones as Elijah was running away from Jezebel.
Jesus fed the 5,000 men after Herod murdered John the Baptist.
Jesus served a Passover meal on the night he was betrayed.
After his resurrection, Jesus grilled fish and bread on the beach for his disciples who had denied him and ran away.

What do they have in common? God’s people do not deserve to be fed. Food is not a reward for good behavior. In his grace and mercy, the Lord invites undeserving sinners and rebels to his table.

Food declares that life and salvation come by grace alone. We are invited to come to the table by faith alone, not by our works or worth. The Lord gave us visible signs to teach us his invisible attributes. Food embodies God’s goodness, gifts that God’s people do not deserve. Food declares the steadfast love and faithfulness of God. In eating and drinking the Lord’s provision (visible), we taste and see his grace and mercy (invisible).

Within days of the deliverance at the Red Sea, God’s people begin to groan and grumble. They accuse God of bringing them to the wilderness to kill them with hunger (Exodus 16:3). They are not asking God for food. They assume that God’s purpose was to harm them. They witnessed God’s protection and their own salvation. Still, they do not trust God, and they do not believe that he is good.

God responds to their complaints and accusations with the promise of bread: “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you” (Exodus 16:4). As a mother of young children, this is a perplexing response. Moms know we should never give in when toddlers throw tantrums. The Israelites do not deserve to be fed.

But God promises more than bread. Why did the Lord say that he will “rain bread from heaven”? Why not say bread will appear with the morning dew, or bread will cover the ground? Why describe the sending of food in this peculiar way?

God is not sending a normal kind of rain. There is a neutral, desirable kind of rain, the kind that Elijah prays for during the famine (geshem). But here in Exodus, God is sending a different kind of rain, matar—the rain of judgment.

Matar is the way the Lord sends rain during the time of Noah—for forty days and forty nights because the earth is filled with violence. Matar is when the Lord rains sulfur and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah. Matar is when the Lord rains hail on Egypt when Pharaoh will not let his people go, destroying all that it fell upon. Matar is the rain of judgment, when God steps into human history and stops evil and violence.

Instead of bringing a flood, hail, fire and brimstone, the Lord rains bread. Bread gives life. Bread sustains. His people need to eat, or they will die. Instead of destroying his people, God sends them judgment that gives life. Instead of death, God gives them mercy. The Lord feeds his people in order that they might know him (Exodus 16:12). The Lord rains visible bread to teach them his invisible attributes. He withholds the punishment they deserve and feeds them sweet bread that they do not deserve.

Judgment and mercy are kneaded together in the bread of heaven, baked and transformed into wafers of honey, sweet flakes that fall from heaven like snow and seeds. For forty years, their daily bread descends with the morning dew (Exodus 16:14, 31).

God’s people are given the dignity to choose him. Will they trust or reject his word? “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning” (Exodus 16:19). When the people trust and obey, they find new bread every morning. Some do not believe God is going to provide, so they horde. Manna turns into maggots. Maggots are found on carcasses. Maggots are signs of death and decay. God’s people must choose: life or death.
In many cultures, food and feasts are often associated with celebrations. But in Scripture, God’s table is first a place of repentance.

We cannot love God the way he loves us. God needs nothing. He is all sufficient. Our affection is weak and frail. Yet, he gives us the dignity to respond and to choose him. He provides a way for us to meet him and accept his love.

So God sets a table and he calls us to come. His table is a place of daily communion with Christ, daily repentance and rest. His table may be set in the wilderness (Psalm 78:19), it may be on the battlefield, in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23:5). Through the fire and the waters, he is with us. He gives us himself.

Repentance is turning away from our own way. Repentance is turning toward God and coming before his presence. Repentance is a joyful, vivid, and strong acceptance of God’s judgment and forgiveness. Repentance is not a passive acquiescence. Repentance is not a lazy, dull, and miserable compliance. We attend his banquet with great rejoicing. Empty-handed, we come home.
The Safest Space

“Safe space” statements are becoming quite common: “This is a safe space, there is no judgment here. This is a judgment free zone.” In God’s presence, however, because he is a holy God, his very presence exposes my unholiness. In his light, his brightness exposes and judges me. Does this mean God’s holy presence is not a “safe space”?

We hate human judgment because human judgment is reductionistic. We reduce each other down to our sin and label one another according to stereotypes. We compare people. We compare ourselves to others. “Safe space” without God is only a contract between humans: “I will not talk about your sin if you don’t talk about my sin.” For humans to say “this is a judgment free zone” is not a promise to love.

God’s judgment is not like human judgment. God’s judgment looks like the cross, where the judgment of God meets the mercy of God. At the cross, God’s judgment falls on Christ and Christ lays down his life for us. Safe space is where forgiveness and pardon is free to anyone who believes God’s word and trusts that he is good.

The Father prepares a feast for rebels and sinners to come and eat with him: “Take, eat, this is my body broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.”

Safe space is where sins and offenses are forgiven, not ignored, not swept under the rug. Safe space is around the Lord’s table, beneath the cross of Jesus. Safe space is the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land where the Lord is our shield and our defender. This is not a judgment free zone. The Lord rains down judgment that gives life, the bread from heaven. Under the reign of King Yahweh, we are truly safe. He is our refuge.

So, come home. To serve the father is better than to eat pods with the swine. Confess with the prodigal son, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Our Father runs to you and invites you to his rest. He has slaughtered a fattened calf. He has prepared a feast for his sons and daughters. We eat lest we die.

Irene Sun

From One Degree of Glory to Another

The alarm clock startled me awake at 6:00 AM. This was an optimistic time. I grasped for my phone on the nightstand and hit the snooze button. I laid there and wondered, “How long do I have until the baby and big kid are awake?” I think to myself; today will be different. 

Today will be the day I don’t run out of patience with my seven-year-old. Today will be the day I will have a good attitude. Today will be the day I show extra grace to my husband. Today will be the day I pray more. Read more. Serve more. Exercise more. Do more. Be more. 

When my eyes open on a Monday, these thoughts run especially rampant. Do you recognize it? The striving that happens in our minds after being awake mere seconds. I wonder if Moses felt this way. The overwhelm must have mounted on his shoulders each day as he led millions of grumbling people while being a sinner himself.

Moses was asked to go up to the mountain again after the failure of his nation. Did he wonder how God would respond? Did he think this would be the time God finally realized His mistake in choosing him? 

No one but Moses was allowed near the mountain. Not even the animals. God is set apart, holy. Untouchable. And yet, He drew Moses near. He relented the disaster that would have been justified to unleash on the Israelites.  

He could have, at the least, turned a cold shoulder. Instead, He laid a warm blanket of truth and glory over Moses:

“The LORD—the LORD is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin.” —Exodus 34:6–7

Moses left that mountain changed. He didn’t realize it, but “the skin of his face shone as a result of his speaking with the LORD” (v.29).

We are beneficiaries of the new covenant and have direct access to Jesus. Which means we have also seen the Father (John 14:9).

When we fail again and again, where does that leave us? When each day feels like a repeat of the day before. When we bore a hole in the Scripture memory index card on the windowsill while washing dishes. When we offer up ragged, short prayers of help and thanksgiving. When we apologize to our kids again after reacting in anger.

What should we, as sinners, expect after an interaction with a holy God? We can expect to be changed. He is transforming us from one degree of glory to another; our sanctification is not a burden to Him. Our slow growth does not disappoint Him.

Kasey Moffett

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