Exodus 17-18

“But Moses’ hands grew weary …” (17:12).  The Israelites could not prevail against the Amalekites without God’s help, and Moses could not hold up his staff without the help of Aaron and Hur.  As they faced their own limitations in the wilderness, God was teaching Moses and the people that they were not superhuman; they had to rely on God for every victory.  Moses, despite his wisdom and leadership, submitted to Jethro’s advice to delegate authority to other leaders in order not to “wear out” (ch 18).
“You are not able to do it alone” (18:18).  Our limitations are not hindrances, but gifts, as they cause us to lean on God and other people for help and strength.

Exodus 16

“Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted” (v21).  The “manna” was a fine grain that God provided every day in the wilderness.  Gathering manna taught the Israelites about their relationship with God.  They could not hoard the grain, because it melted or spoiled, and everyone had “just enough.”  The only time they gathered extra was before the Sabbath, so that they could rest on that day but not go hungry.
“It is the bread that the Lord has given you” (v15).  God is not an emergency lifeline; His desire is that we depend on Him daily, recognizing that He is the source of life itself. 

Exodus 15

“The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (v2).  Moses and the Israelites composed songs to celebrate what God had done for them in bringing them safely through the Red Sea.  They were rescued out of Egypt, and they also learned something true about the God of Abraham: He is our salvation.  Very quickly, the Israelites’ trust in this God was tested, as they camped in the wilderness and could only find bitter water (v24-25).  God heard their cries and answered.
“I am the Lord your healer” (v26).  God’s salvation isn’t a one-time thing.  Saving, forgiving, and healing are in His character, so we can trust Him more and more.

Luke 6:39-48

“Can a blind man lead a blind man?  Will they not both fall into a pit?” (v39).  Much of Jesus’ teaching about our behavior concerned the two principles of humility and integrity.  If we constantly focus on others’ faults, we are usually ignoring our own; humility reminds us that we too are “blind.”  Integrity means that our behavior matches our words; throwing around Jesus’ name doesn’t mean anything if we don’t obey Him (v46).  Jesus said that a tree is known “by its fruit” (v44).
“He is like a man building a house …” (v48).  In a world of uncertainty and deception, we can build our lives on the strong foundation of knowing and obeying Jesus.

Luke 6:20-38

"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (v20).  Jesus preached about what some have called “the upside-down kingdom.”  He said that while human instinct is to get more than others and push them down so that we feel more important, God’s kingdom is different.  Poverty and sadness open our hearts to Him, and forgiveness and generosity are His “norms.” Being kind when it doesn’t benefit us and loving those who wrong us reflect God’s nature (v27-34).
“But love your enemies …and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High” (v35).  When we truly believe that God is our ultimate Judge and King, we treat people differently.

Luke 6:1-19

"I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?" (v9). The religious authorities were watching to see if Jesus would break the Sabbath laws (v2,7).  They saw the disciples picking grain, and they were disturbed by Jesus healing a man in the synagogue.  Jesus silenced them with references to the Old Testament, but “they were filled with fury” and murderous (v11).  The problem wasn’t their understanding of the law, but their hearts.
“He knew their thoughts” (v8).  The problem with sin is that we easily justify everything we want to do.  God doesn’t want to simply manage our behavior, but to transform our hearts.

Psalm 12

“Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man” (v1).  The people of God have often felt like the righteous are disappearing; in this case, the psalmist was frustrated by lies and manipulation.   “Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak” (v2), each trying to win power (v3).  Yet God cuts through the noise; He sees that “the poor are plundered” and “the needy groan;” He promises to “arise” (v5).
“The words of the Lord are pure words” (v6).  God’s words are never “just words.” He speaks with truth and power to save those who call out to Him.

Exodus 14

"Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD” (v13).  The Israelites lost their courage when they saw that they were trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army.  But God wanted them to recognize His power over the Egyptians and His ability to save His people.  God required nothing from the Israelites but trust: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (v14).

“So the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD” (v31).  We “fear” God (and no one else) because He is the Creator and ultimate Judge; we trust Him because He loves us and has promised to fight for us.  

Exodus 13

“For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt” (v39).  The Passover helped the Israelites remember their history: that God saved them from slavery “with a strong hand” to bring them to “a land flowing with milk and honey” (v3,5).  Their trust and obedience, going forward, was to flow from knowing God’s character: He was the One who rescued them to give them a better life.  

“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud … and by night in a pillar of fire” (v21).  Like the Israelites, we can follow God into the unknown only if we are convinced that He is on our side - our Helper, our Savior. 

Exodus 12

“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old…” (v5).  In Egypt, the Israelites only had circumcision and their ethnic descent (from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) to unite them.  The Passover celebration – symbolizing their rescue out of Egypt and escape from the angel of death – was the first ritual God commanded them to do yearly.  Eating the roast lamb “with sandals on their feet” (v11), with unleavened bread, and putting its blood on their doors all communicated: God is our Rescuer.

God defined Himself as “the One who brought you out of Egypt” before giving the Law.  He is the One who initiates salvation; we love Him because He first loved us.

Exodus 11

“There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again” (v6).  Moses urged Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt to worship the Lord “in the wilderness.”  When Pharaoh refused, plagues came upon Egypt, getting progressively worse, as God demonstrated His power to those who worshipped false gods.  Finally, when Pharaoh still refused to grant freedom to the Israelites, God revealed His power over life and death.

“Yet one plague more …” (v1).  God urges us to “choose life,” to love and obey the Life-giver, because rebellion opens the door to death - separation from the One who loves us.  

Luke 5:12-39

“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (v32).  Jesus shocked the traditional religious authorities by “hanging out” with Levi and other tax collectors, people who were considered sinful, non-observant Jews, paid by the Roman government.  Jesus and his disciples weren’t themselves committing sin, yet daring to fellowship with that crowd made others question them.  Jesus’ answer was that he was called to heal and forgive those in need (v31-32). 

“But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (v16).  In prayer, we find the power necessary to extend Jesus’ love, forgiveness, and healing to those in need (v17). 

Luke 5:1-11

“And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets" (v5).  Peter couldn’t imagine why Jesus wanted the fishermen to repeat an obviously failed task, but they obeyed, because it was Jesus.  They were “astonished” by the enormous catch of fish, and Peter was humbled by his own sinful doubts (v8).  Jesus proved His power over the basic daily effort of catching fish, giving the disciples reason to consider following Him in the strange task of “catching men” (v10).

“And they came and filled both boats” (v7).  As we trust Jesus to supply our daily, practical needs, He increases our faith to follow Him into “extraordinary things” (v26).

Psalm 11

“In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, "Flee like a bird to your mountain …?” (v1).  David rejected the suggestion that he should find protection or refuge in any place other than God’s presence.  The wicked were pointing their arrows, “the foundations” were destroyed (v3), and the “the righteous” were panicking, yet David reminded them that “the Lord is in his holy temple” (v4).  He does not change, and His power and love never fail.   

“For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face” (v7).  God’s presence is the only safe harbor; we find peace by rejecting false comforts and opening our hearts to Him. 

Exodus 10

“Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind” (v26).  At first, Pharaoh permitted only the Israelite men to go into the wilderness to worship.  However, Moses insisted that their wives and children accompany them, and their livestock and possessions as well.  Moses knew that their deliverance was all-or-nothing; anything left behind in Egypt would either be lost forever or would entice the Israelites back.  If their Israelites were truly going to be set free, no compromise was possible.

“Let my people go, that they may serve me” (v3).  If we want to serve God whole-heartedly, we must be willing to turn our backs on everything that might enslave us.

Exodus 9

“Then whoever feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses, but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the LORD left his slaves and his livestock in the field” (v20-21).  After several plagues, many Egyptians believed Moses’ warnings about the coming hailstorm.  Some magicians were convinced, and certain royal servants heeded Moses’ words.  But when the hail stopped, Moses said to Pharaoh, “I know that you do not yet fear the Lord God” (v30).

“Get your livestock … into safe shelter” (v19).  God never desires destruction.  He warns us for our good, giving us opportunities to believe and obey.

Exodus 8

“Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God’” (v19).  The plague of frogs over all the land was something that Pharaoh’s magicians could imitate (v7); however, when gnats invaded, the magicians could do nothing (v18).  They saw plainly that Moses’ God, the God of the Israelites, was more than spirit-world manipulation, and they proclaimed this to Pharaoh.  But he “hardened his heart” and refused to yield, preferring to see his land and people destroyed rather than submit.

“Plead for me” (v28).  Like Pharaoh, many people want God to remove their problems but don’t want to know Him.  When we surrender ourselves to His loving authority, we receive much more than temporary relief.  

Exodus 7

“By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold … I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood” (v17).  The Nile was the source of prosperity and life for Egypt; in a relatively dry climate, the waters of this enormous river provided irrigation for fields as well as water for drinking, bathing, watering animals, etc.  By striking the Nile, God was announcing His power over Egypt’s economy and also over the gods associated with the river.

“They could not drink the water of the Nile” (v24).  Sometimes, God removes our “dependable” human resources so that we can see that He alone is the source of life.

Luke 4:14-44

“And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian" (v27).  Jesus announced his Messianic mission (v18) in the synagogue of his hometown, Nazareth (v22).  At first his neighbors spoke well of him, but finally they tried to throw him over a cliff (v29).  They wanted Jesus to be someone they could admire, not someone who disturbed their peace by extending God’s favor to foreigners, like Naaman. 

"I must preach the good news … to the other towns as well” (v43).  God is not the property of any culture or group; He offers salvation in Christ to “other towns” that eagerly receive Him. 

Luke 4:1-13

“And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry” (v2).  Alone in the wilderness, Jesus was hungry, weak, and vulnerable when the devil tested him.  Hebrews tells us that these experiences were “in every respect” like our own (Heb 4:15), yet, unlike us, he remained innocent. Faced with the temptation to satisfy his needs and desires in a way that broke fellowship with the Father, Jesus refused to compromise, defeating the enemy by his faithful endurance.   

Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit,” (v1).  He remained completely united with the Father by the Spirit, while he endured testing for our sakes, so that we can share his victory.