This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Drew Morehouse:
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’” (Deuteronomy 18:15-16 NKJV)
When the children of Israel saw the Lord descend upon the mountain, they were scared to death. There was so much light, smoke, fire and noise that they could not listen to God and told Moses to speak to them instead. Moses had this day in mind when he told them of the One who was to come. When the time came for this Prophet to appear, God answered their prayer and sent Him much more quietly, in the form of “a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12) This Prophet is the Lord Jesus Christ. He was “gentle and lowly of heart” (Matt. 11:29) so that they would not be afraid to approach Him as they once were at the foot of the mountain. He spoke to Israel the “words of eternal life.” (John 6:68), and He is still speaking them to us today. How can we hear him? It’s not that hard. He speaks through the Gospels. He speaks from the cross. He speaks through the empty tomb. We as church goers have every opportunity to hear Him. The question is are we listening? In His mercy, God has seen fit to meet with us here and now, but it will not last forever. There will come a day when He again descends in power and His appearing will be like lightning in the sky. Then the time for listening will be over. Today is the day of salvation.
The people were camped in the land of Moab, with just the River Jordan keeping them from entering into the Promised Land. Moses is getting ready to wrap up his ministry and turn things over to Joshua. God decides it’s time for a review, so Moses rehearses the last forty years of history with the people. He reminds them of the covenant they entered into with God at Mount Sinai. It’s then that Moses makes the statement, “He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.” (Deuteronomy 6:23)
The people had been slaves in Egypt for four hundred years when God sent Moses to set them free. Then they had wandered in the wilderness for the next forty years and had conquered the kingdoms of Sihon and Og. But they weren’t done. They hadn’t arrived. They hadn’t gotten to the place that God had intended. God had a Promised Land for Israel, not just deliverance from Egypt. God had a Promised Land for Israel, and not just wandering in the wilderness.
It’s a little like Easter time, where we think about how Jesus died on a cross for our sins, but that wasn’t the end of the story. Jesus didn’t stay dead, but He rose from the dead. He died to pay for our sins, but He rose to give us new life and assure us of a future in heaven.
Don’t settle for half the story friend. Yes, Jesus paid for your sins. He also has a destination for you. He has a life empowered by the resurrection. He has things for you to do. He has brought you out in order to bring you in.
Israel was getting to the end of their long journey through the wilderness. They were on the edge of entering into the Promised Land. God had Moses go up to the top of a mountain to look across the Jordan and get a glimpse of what was ahead. And then came the bad news. Moses would not be allowed to enter the land. In fact, Moses would be dying soon (he was after all 120 years old). If I were Moses, I would simply be freaked out with these two pieces of news, but Moses was thinking about something else. Moses was concerned about the future. He was concerned about who was going to replace him. When I am aware of big changes up ahead, my first thought is to panic. Pure and simple. Moses’ first response was to pray. “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, who may go out before them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.” (Numbers 27:16–17)
I don’t know if Moses was surprised at God’s answer to his prayer. Moses found out that God had already been raising up someone to replace Moses. God’s answer was right beside Moses, his servant Joshua.
I don’t know what you are facing right now beloved. I find that I go through seasons where things are just fine, and other times I have one difficult thing after another. When those questions come, I need to pray. Go to God and ask Him for direction. Ask Him what His plan is. You may not get an immediate answer like Moses did, but give God a chance to work.
This was their moment. This was their time. As the children of Israel stood on the border of their Promised Land, Moses sent twelve spies to check out the land of Canaan and come back with a full report. They were to find out what the people were like, what the cities were like, and to bring back some of the fruit of the land. For the next forty days, the spies took notes on the fortified cities. They spotted some giants living in the land. They gathered samples of grapes, pomegranates, and figs. When they finished, they reported on all they had seen. Joshua and Caleb encouraged the people to go up and conquer the land. But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:31–33). As a result of this pessimism, the people refused to enter the Promised Land, and they ended up wandering in the desert for forty more years.
It’s one thing to be honest and truthful about the difficulties ahead in life. It’s another to discourage people from taking the right steps in following the Lord. Following God isn’t always easy. Sometimes it requires courage, because we will face giants. But it is oh so worth it.
One of the leaders of the ultra-orthodox sect known as the Pharisees decided to invite Jesus to his house for dinner. I imagine it was both a friendly gesture, as well as a risky one, since Jesus could say some difficult things. Jesus didn’t seem to care that he offended people who took their religion so seriously. Perhaps Jesus was just concerned about refining those who had grown too comfortable in their religion. They thought that they had “arrived” and ought to be admired for it.
As the other invited guests began to take their places, Jesus noticed how the places of honor were the first seats to go. Jesus responded to what He saw by saying, “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:8–11)
What Jesus was teaching was more than just good wedding guest etiquette. He was teaching about life. We all long for recognition, but the best way to obtain recognition is to not seek it in the first place.
It was one of those uncomfortable, “awkward” moments. A Pharisee named Simon had asked the new rabbi to come to his house and share a meal. After they sat down to eat, an uninvited guest showed up. Simon knew this woman had a reputation in town. She was definitely not one of the “nice” people. As she approached Jesus at the table, she began weeping, washing Jesus’ feet with her tears, and then pouring perfume on His feet. Luke goes on to record what Simon was thinking at the time – Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39)
What Simon didn’t realize at the time was that this woman was exactly the kind of person that Jesus was looking for. You might even say that Jesus lived and died for moments like this. It’s not that Jesus just liked to live on the wild side or that He liked the attention of this particular woman. The truth is, He came to forgive and help “sinners” turn their lives around.
I think that the older I get, the less bothered I want to be. I want things to be safe. I want them to be predictable. I want to surround myself with people who look, think, and act like me. The problem is that Jesus’ ultimate goal for my life isn’t just about me being comfortable. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. There are times when a hand needs to be extended to the person sinking in life’s storms. There are times when that hand needs to be mine. It may be uncomfortable, but it also may be right.
When Bezalel was building the items that God told Moses to make for the Tabernacle, one of the items was a “laver”. Some modern depictions of the bronze laver look something like a large commercial coffee urn with multiple spigots. The laver was part of the process the priests would go through each time they served, each time they would approach God. The laver provided water to wash what was dirty. It’s not that God is a germaphobe, there is a deeper kind of cleansing that God is interested in when we draw near to Him. Moses recorded that Bezalel made it … from the bronze mirrors of the serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting (Exodus 38:8). Ancient mirrors weren’t made of glass, but of finely polished bronze. With a laver made of mirrors, I imagine the priests could see themselves when they washed.
James tells us a little something about another mirror when he writes, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James1:22-25). Beloved, when you open God’s Word, do you see yourself in the reflection? Do you know what needs to be washed? Take a look in the mirror. Be careful to do what it says.
I am so awesome. You did know that I’m awesome, didn’t you? Sometimes when I think about my own accomplishments, I just amaze myself. Just the other day I ordered one of my many employees to do the most embarrassing thing, and you should have seen the look on his face as he reluctantly obeyed his boss. Awesome, right? Sometimes my greatness is most apparent when I pick some unsuspecting person to compare myself to, and I realize just how amazing I am. Why just the other day I challenged a five year old to a basketball game, and I bet you can’t guess who won! I am just so awesome.
Jesus’ disciples were a little like me. On one of their trips, the fellows had apparently been in some sort of rigorous debate. When Jesus asked what they had been talking about, things got unusually quiet. They had been debating which one of them was the greatest.
And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
If I think my measure of awesomeness is based on how many people I can order around, I’m mistaken. If I think my measure of total coolness is based on my ability to crush others to win in the race, I have a problem.
Jesus seems to think that greatness is about being last. It’s about serving. It’s about putting others first. Get yourself out of the picture and stop trying to be “something”. Just serve Jesus. Just serve others. That’s what makes true awesomeness.
When God called Moses to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt, there was just a little tiny problem. The Egyptians weren’t about to let the Israelites go. After all, the Israelites were free slave labor. It was going to take something powerful before Pharaoh would agree to let them go, and that’s when the battle of the “plagues” began. It started with Moses turning the Nile into blood, something that the Egyptian magicians were able to somehow reproduce. Then came the frogs, which the Egyptians were able to simulate. When the flies showed up, the magicians began to choke. They had a sense that there was something bigger than man behind these things. For the Egyptians, things went from bad to worse. Livestock died, people were covered with boils, and enormous hailstones fell from the sky.
People have always tried to follow the path of the magicians, trying to explain away what God does. Like the magicians, they will even try to copy the kinds of things that God can do. In doing so, people miss the lesson that the Egyptian magicians themselves learned with the flies – it was the finger of God (Ex. 8:19). The magicians were able to copy the first two plagues, but they were powerless to replicate the next eight.
Just like those first two plagues, men can indeed do amazing things. There are self-help books and support groups that can accomplish much. Yet when it comes to true, powerful, and lasting deliverance, we will always stop short until we bring God into the picture. There is someone greater than you. There is someone able to help. His name is Jesus.
Jesus did not have many kind things to say about the scribes and Pharisees of His day. They were judgmental, hypocritical, mean-spirited spiritual leaders of a nation that needed desperately to know God. They did have one good quality, which Jesus did not disparage. Regarding the Pharisees, Jesus said, “Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do” (Matthew 23:3).
It is very important that spiritual leaders live what they preach. We live in a very dark world that needs to see the light of a person whose “walk” matches their “talk”. So why didn’t Jesus just say, “Ok everyone, completely ignore everything connected to the Pharisees, because they’re just a bunch of hypocrites”? Jesus actually encouraged His listeners to pay attention to the words of the Pharisees. Why? Because despite all their faults, they taught from God’s Word.
God’s Word is true, despite the flaws of the person who is speaking it. God’s Word is powerful, even if someone is abusing it by living a hypocritical life. There are going to be times when a favorite pastor or leader will have a very public fall. That doesn’t mean that the things they taught from God’s Word were necessarily bad. I’m not trying to excuse the flaws of men who have stumbled, but I do want to call to your attention that God’s Word is true, no matter who is speaking it. God’s Word is the baby in that old saying: “Don’t throw out the baby out with the bath water”.