Daily Bible Readings:
Monday, January 14. Read Exodus 3:1-6. 1) What was Moses doing when God spoke to him in this passage? 2) What did God instruct Moses to do? 3) How do you think this event might have been received if it had occurred earlier in Moses’ life while he was still in Egypt?
Tuesday, January 15. Read Numbers 32:13-15. 1) Why was God angry with Israel? 2) What do you think the basic issue was? 3) What was God’s response to Israel’s behavior?
Wednesday, January 16. Read Exodus 16:1-3. 1) Where did this event occur? 2) What stresses do you think Israel probably had at this point in their journey? 3) How did Israel respond to this stress?
Thursday, January 17. Read Matthew 3:1-6. 1) What was John the Baptist doing in this text? 2) Why do you think he chose this venue to do his preaching? 3) Why did John have such an austere lifestyle?
Friday, January 18. ReadExodus 5:1-5. 1) What did Moses andAaron say to Israel’s leaders in this text? 2) Why do you think God wanted Israel to go into the wilderness?
Saturday, January 19. Read Luke 4:1-13. This is Sunday’s sermon text.
Prayer of the Week:
Merciful God, the wilderness of this world is broad and dark. Many are the dangers and attractions. We pray for
May we not be distracted by the sights and sounds and passions shown to us by the Evil One. May we, with integrity and holiness, walk straight toward you, depending only on you for guidance. In Jesus’
Hymn of the Week:
Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life
by Frank Mason North, 1905;
Where cross the crowded ways of life,
Where sound the cries of race and clan
Above the noise of selfish strife,
We hear Thy voice, O Son of Man.
In haunts of wretchedness and need,
On shadowed thresholds fraught with fears,
From paths where hide the lures of greed,
We catch the vision of Thy tears.
From tender childhood’s helplessness,
From human grief and burdened toil,
From famished souls, from sorrow’s stress,
Thy heart has never known recoil.
The cup of water given for Thee
Still holds the freshness of Thy grace;
Yet long these multitudes to see
The sweet compassion of Thy face.
O Master, from the mountainside,
Make haste to heal these hearts of pain;
Among these restless throngs abide,
O tread the city’s streets again;
Till all the world shall learn Thy love,
And follow where Thy feet have trod;
Till glorious from Thy heaven above
Devotional Article of the Week:
Following God in the Wilderness
Can you hear the sound of trumpets?
by Mark Frost
Sherry has been divorced for five years. Recently, she met a man who stirs something inside her. Sherry realizes how lonely she’s been, but is still a bit surprised by how powerfully she is drawn toward this man who seems to genuinely appreciate her. She feels that she made a poor choice of a marriage partner the first time and thus doubts her ability to make a good choice this time. She cries out to God for guidance.
Jeremy has just graduated from college. He has two job offers. One is with a major corporation, where he would start low on the totem pole, but would be on a track that could one day lead to an upper management position… or to a dead-end job somewhere in middle management. The other offer is from a small non-profit that works with at-risk youth. He has a heart for helping others and longs to make a difference, but the salary is quite modest and even if he eventually became the CEO, he’d make about the same as a mid-level manager at the first company. He cries out to God for guidance.
Like Jeremy and Sherry, many of us feel a need for God’s direction, especially at significant crossroads in life. The world is a scary place and we’ve never travelled this road before. And with many of the decisions we face, the stakes are unbelievably high. We long for the comfort of knowing that God is with us on the journey and that he is showing us the way.
And so we cry out to God for guidance. And as we do, we find a close kinship with the generation of God’s people who came out of Egyptian slavery, only to have to confront the rigors of the wilderness. If ever a people needed guidance from above, it was the children of Israel. And God did provide them with direction:
On the day the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered it. Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out (Numbers 9:15-23).
You can’t miss the idea here. Whenever the Israelites set up camp, they had no idea whether they would be moving on the next morning or they would be settling in for several months. Mentally, they had to be prepared for either possibility. The bottom line was that they were focused on moving at God’s prompting and in his timing. This points us to a fundamental mental shift we must make if we are to follow God. It’s simply the recognition that he is calling the shots; we are not.
Most of the time, we have the wrong starting point. We gather facts, analyze data, set goals and make decisions. Then we ask God to bless our plans. The Israelites had a different starting point: they began each day by asking, “Where is God?” And when they perceived that God was on the move, their sole priority was to move with him.
When we face troubling circumstances and difficult decisions, we tend to get covered up by details and confounded by competing priorities. Before long, we are overwhelmed and paralyzed by maddeningly baffling complexities. In such times, we need to pause long enough to ask, “Where is God in all of this?” I know that for me at least, my rising anxiety level is a good indicator that I need to slow down and ask that important question.
Discerning God’s Ways
The most obvious thing to do is to open the Bible. Indeed, Scripture was given for our guidance and no one can hope to discern God’s leading apart from an intimate knowledge of it. Sometimes, God’s direction jumps off the page in the form of a clear command. This command that leaves only one course of action, other than defiant disobedience.
More often, his guidance is perceived as we live with the Word, becoming thoroughly familiar with the ebb and flow of God’s movements through the centuries as reflected in the stories of his people. The more familiar we are with those stories, the more skilled we become at detecting God’s purposes in our current circumstances.
Careful study of the Word must of course be joined with dedicated prayer as we seek to follow God’s lead. If we are searching to discover where God is in our present setting, doesn’t it make sense to ask him? Much could be gained by praying:
Lord, I have trouble seeing where you are in this situation. Please show me what you’re up to, what your purposes are, and where we fit into that plan.
To those who earnestly pray such a prayer, Jesus promises, “seek and you shall find.”
Listen for the Trumpets
Finally, we need to “listen for the trumpets.” Scripture fills in a few more details on how the Israelites followed the pillar of cloud (Numbers 10:1-28). It tells us that when the high priest and his sons observed that the cloud was moving, they were responsible for blowing trumpets, signaling to the people that it was time to pack up and leave. The people, hearing the blast, would immediately gather their belongings and set out.