Introduction: In last week’s notes we discovered that the rod of Moses was preserved as an object lesson in Israel’s Holy Place, where Israel’s priest offered up their worship to God. This was the rod with which Moses shepherded sheep for forty years in Midian (Exodus 4:2,17), and it was the rod with which he struck the Nile river and turned it to blood according to Exodus 17:5. In this week’s notes, may the rod of God direct us to new lessons about God’s sacrificial shepherding care for His people in the desert. May we never grow tired of fruitful meditation upon such “tools of the trade” which God used to shepherd His people.
Mon/Tues: read Exodus 4:1-5; 7:10-12 and Hebrews 2:14-15. Going back to the beginning, God uses His rod to prove that He would help Moses and Israel to a victorious deliverance from their cruel slave-masters, the Egyptians. In Ex. 4:2-5, God challenged Moses to pick up the rod once it had been transformed into a serpent – and then declared to him in verse 5 that this miracle was so that Israel may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob had appeared to you. God knew the terrorized frame of mind of His people, in bondage in a land where snakes were worshipped and exalted as a symbol of Egyptian power. Behold Him stoop to their weakness by showing His control over this most feared symbol of curse, enabling Moses’ rod to be mightier than the feared serpents of Egypt as Aaron is able to cast down that rod in Exodus 7:12, so that all behold Pharoah’s serpents swallowed and defeated! What a sign to help Israel believe!
Has God not done the same thing by giving us the sign of the Cross as a reminder of Christ’s victory over the curse of our sin and the hatred of our greatest foe Satan? Did not Christ rise from the dead in order to devour death and break the fearful hold which death has over our lives? Every time the Gospel is preached, Christ crucified and resurrected is lifted up victorious over the original serpent Satan! Satan, the one who holds the power of death, (Hebrews 2:14), is defeated once and for all! Death is indeed swallowed up in victory, (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)!
Meditate and Pray: Sing about Christ’s victory over Satan, as He swallows up death and the one who had the power of death, Satan himself, in hymn # 271:
Sing, choirs of new Jerusalem,
your sweetest notes employ,
your sweetest notes employ
the paschal victory to hymn
in songs of holy joy,
in songs of holy joy,
in songs of holy joy!
For Judah’s Lion burst his chains
and crushed the serpent’s head,
and crushed the serpent’s head;
Christ cries aloud through death’s domains
to wake th’imprisoned dead,
to wake th’imprisoned dead,
to wake th’imprisoned dead.
Weds/Thurs: Exodus 7:10-13, 2 Timothy 3:1-9 and John 16:12-15. It is almost beyond comprehension to see Pharoah unfazed in his hard-hearted unbelief – even when in Exodus 7:12-13 the scepters of his greatest wise-men and magicians are swallowed by the mightier rod of God in the hands of Aaron! It would be impossible to credit such hard-heartedness if we did not see the same self-deception and unbelief in these last days in which we live, when 2 Timothy 3:2-5 tell us that people will become:
Lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power.
Shocking isn’t it? That Paul here is not describing the spiritually dangerous falsehoods of other world religions, but rather the hollow deceptiveness of unspiritual and Christ-less Christianity, “which has a form of godliness but denies its power”, (2 Timothy 3:5)! Yet we recognize such a false Christian religion when we see it: preaching the newspaper and political activism in place of the Bible; preaching a moral code of law-obedience and good citizenship which does not need the righteousness of Jesus’ life and work; preaching human potential instead of our desperate need for grace. Paul says that, while such false religion may at first sound Christian, it is really the same deceptive power which those two original Egyptian magicians, named here in 2 Timothy 3:8 as Jannes and Jambres, first presented to Pharoah in Exodus 7:10-13. Their masquerading as religious powers that could imitate Moses and Aaron is the reason Pharoah could justify remaining unmoved by the true power of God’s rod!
Prayer of reflection: Lord, in our day when so many false religious teachers and ideologies inflame so many against your truth, please remember us in our tendency to be deluded and attracted to false ways. Forgive us when our pulpits fail to preach “Christ crucified” and instead slip into moral platitudes. We confess that in our hearts, we could easily be led astray as Pharoah was led astray by his false magicians. Please send the Spirit of truth to “lead us into all truth”, (John 16:13), that we might truly hold to the one true path to Heaven, which Jesus clearly has laid down for us in His sinless life, perfect teaching and sacrificial death. Amen.
Meditate and Pray: Sing about the one way of salvation which Jesus Christ so clearly provides with hymn # 154, which is a paraphrase of John 14:1-6, where Jesus declares, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”:
Thou art the Way: to Thee alone
From sin and death we flee;
And he who would the Father seek
Must seek Him, Lord, by Thee.
Thou art the Truth: Thy Word alone
True wisdom can impart;
Thou only canst inform the mind,
And purify the heart.
Thou art the Life: the rending tomb
Proclaims Thy conquering arm,
And those who put their trust in Thee
Nor death nor hell shall harm.
Thou art the Way, the Truth, the Life;
Grant us that Way to know,
That Truth to keep, that Life to win,
Whose joys eternal flow.
Fri/Sat/Sun: read 2 Timothy 2:16-19 and 3:8-9. We were shocked yesterday to discover that Paul’s description of the ‘falling away’ in the Last Days in 2 Timothy 3 does not focus on the dangers of foreign, false belief systems, such as militant Islam or North Korean communism, but rather upon unspiritual and Christ-less Christianity, “which has a form of godliness but denies its power”, (2 Timothy 3:5)! Thus it is from those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ that false teachers will arise, denying both the faith and the God who bought them! Just as there were false spiritual guides in the court of Pharoah to deceive his hardened heart, so there are those today, like those mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:17-18, whose teaching “spreads like cancer” even among Christian churches! This is enough to make all sincere Christians, conscience of their own weakness and gullibility, afraid of being deceived.
Will we also be ensnared? What assurance can God give us that we shall be safe even while the tide of unbelief, false teaching and godless living rises around us? The answer lies in 2 Timothy 2:19, powerfully translated in various Bible versions as follows:
But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” (ESV)
Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (NKJV)
God’s solid foundation still stands, however, with this double inscription: ‘the Lord knows those who belong to him’, and ‘Let every true Christian have no dealing with evil.’ (JB Philips)
Here then we are given two great foundation stones with which to ground our Christian assurance that we will by grace persevere to the end:
- God knows you, and He has foreknown you from before you were born so that you should belong to Him. This is why you study your Bible and read Bible notes to help your understanding of what you read: Because you desire to know the God who knows you. Be assured, then, that those whom, “God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters”, (Rom. 8:29). God knows those who belong to Him, and none can snatch them out of His hand!
- God knows how to make you hate sin – not all at once; not unto perfection in this life – but progressively, so that, as you grow in Christ, you learn to “turn away from wickedness” as you truly confess the name of the Lord in 2 Timothy 2:19.
Meditate and Pray: Sing with joyful recognition of God’s driving you to Him, and away from the sin which threatens to destroy so many unbelievers, using hymn # 534:
O for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame,
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!
Where is the blessedness I knew,
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul refreshing view
Of Jesus and His Word?
What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void
The world can never fill.
Return, O holy Dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest!
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn
And drove Thee from my breast.
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.
So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.