Daily Scripture readings for July, set #9:
– Exodus, chapters 24-26
– Psalm, chapter 32
– Matthew 13:44-58
– Acts 19:23-41
We’re now beginning the more “strenuous” section of Exodus, where the text moves from describing the drama between Moses/Pharaoh/God to the details of the laws and instructions for the people in the wilderness. BUT, there is a reason that God included these chapters in his word, and reminding myself of that helps me to pay attention as I read in the face of the obvious temptation to zone out. As I read just now, I noticed the ominous and incriminating statement from the people in chapter 24: “Then (Moses) took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient” (vs 7). The old covenant hinges on this commitment from the people, and it’s a commitment that we know they don’t keep. It is only a few chapters from now that the golden calf appears. Reading this statement from the people was unsettling to me, because though their intentions are good, it’s meaningless. Kinda like when I tell someone I’m going to pray for them and don’t, or tell me daughter that I’ll play with her in 5 minutes but take another hour instead. Or, when I tell the Lord every day that I’ll keep his word in the apex of my consciousness and then completely abandon it as soon as I see something shiny.
Psalm 32 keeps it real with the basics of relationship with God: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (vs 5). It’s that simple, and yet so difficult. My knee-jerk is to make excuses, dodge conviction, or just pretend that no one will know if I don’t say anything. Instead of taking vs 5 to heart, all too often I play the part of vs 9: “Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.”
The parable of “the net” in Matthew 47-50 is very special to me, because my daughter Betty responded to the Gospel via this text. We were reading it together for devotions on Thanksgiving day in 2008, when she was 3 years old. It was her children’s Bible, with slightly different wording than the ESV, but Jesus’ parable still cut her to the heart. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Betty asked if she would be separated with the righteous or the evil, and it gave me an opportunity to talk with her about Christ’s righteousness being available to her through faith and repentance, in a way that could understand. I will of course never forget that day, but I did in fact forget that this parable was at the end of Matthew 13. Reading it just now was such a joy!
The only thing I’ll mention about Acts 19’s account of Demetrius and the Artemis riot in Ephesus is the fact that it all stemmed from a financial issue. The flow of verses 25-27 show Demetrius being MAINLY concerned with his idol building business, and only secondarily concerned with Artemis as his god. I feel like there’s an analogy in there somewhere with the mainstream association of conservative political perspectives regarding religion and the economy.