The 40 days of Lent for 2014 begin on Ash Wednesday (5th March) and conclude on Holy Saturday (17th April). The quick mathematician will notice that is more than 40 days. Sundays are not included. As a team of clergy and readers we have provided short devotional comments for each of the 40 days and encourage you to read our Sunday lectionary readings in preparation for church to maintain a rhythm of daily readings. It is our hope and prayer that our journey through the Scriptures this Lent will help you grow in faith and understanding of God’s big story.
Day 5 Monday 10th March 2014
Exodus 3–4 God Calls Moses to Deliver His People
There is a story of a Jewish photographer who own as photography studio where many of his pictures are displayed on the wall. A customer enters and asks which his favourite photo? The photographer responds ‘Are you married?’ The customer slightly taken aback says, ‘Well, yes’. The photographer asks, ‘Do you have children?’ The customer even more confused replies, ‘Yes I have three’. The photographer then asks, ‘Which is your favourite?’ Questions engage our thought process in a far greater way than a simple statement. The customer now understands that each photograph is too precious to have a favourite. Count how many questions there are in this passage from Exodus. Usually when we read this account we are struck by the supernatural revelation at the burning bush. However, it is the series of awkward questions where Moses discovers his mission. The supernatural incident is God’s way of getting Moses’ attention. As we try and discern the plans and purposes God has for our lives are we just looking for the big supernatural revelation or are we taking time to listen to God and engaging in the awkward questions that may follow. Moses need great reassurance and God graciously provided, yet still Moses tries to escape God’s call on his life (Exodus 4:13). What are the things God is calling you to do that you are avoiding? Where are you hoping someone else will do the things God has asked of you?
Day 6 Tuesday 11th March 2014
Exodus 20 The Ten Commandments
We have all sorts of different ways of taking Paracetamol in our house – we have Calpol for the children (which is the nicest way and still tastes so good) and capsules for the adults. But for the ‘big kid’ (me) we have to have soluble ones, I can’t stand taking capsules. Moses of course famously came down the mountain with two tablets that everyone finds difficult to swallow! God’s people got the wrong idea of the Law; they forgot that it was given by God in freedom. However it became a new slavery as they thought they could win God’s acceptance by keeping it. There was a huge hypocrisy to be found amongst the religious people of Jesus’ day that prided themselves of their keeping of the Law and the other laws they had made up as a way of interpreting how to follow God’s Law. Yet they missed the spirit of the Law and they were even using the Law as a way of bringing profit to themselves at the expense of people coming to worship God (Mark 11:15-18). Jesus dramatically overturned this and the whole way the law was regarded. The Old Testament prophets looked to a time where the Law was to be appreciated in a new light (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:26-27). It was to be written not on tablets of stone but on our hearts. The New Testament writers claimed that because of Jesus that time has come (Hebrews 8:7-13). It is like being born again, receiving a new heart. John Piper comments; ‘New birth is the writing of the law on our hearts, so that we’re not under it, it is under us, it’s coming out of us’. Keeping the Law is our heartfelt response to what Jesus has done for us where we long to become like God, like His character as revealed in the 10 Commandments. However, we don’t toil after this, it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us; not writing these rules on lumps of stone but on our hearts. The challenge for us today is to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit so that we do not have hearts of stone but of flesh – and so in freedom we can embrace the 10 Commandments and let our thoughts dwell on them and the character of God. Then we can even echo the words of the Psalmist ‘Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long’ (Psalm 119:97).
Day 7 Wednesday 12th March 2014
Joshua 1 Conquering the Promised Land
Joshua 1 is a passage that teaches us greatly about leadership and our responsibility to our leaders. Firstly the nature of Biblical leadership is revealed to us (v. 1) where Moses is described as ‘the servant of the Lord’. In the KJV the word ‘leader’ appears 6 times compared to ‘servant’ which occurs over 900 times. Jesus is our model leader and truly defines the servant nature of ministry (Mark 10:45; Philippians 2:5-11). Whilst you may not identify yourself as a leader actually as Christians we are all leading someone. From the moment you become a Christian people look to you as an example and judge your integrity and consistency. What we can learn from this passage has application for us all. Joshua’s challenge was to take possession of the Promised Land (v. 2). To accomplish what God was calling him to do what particularly daunting and so three times he is commanded by God to ‘be strong and courageous’ (vv. 6, 7, 9) and once by the half-tribes (v. 18). He is assured of God’s presence (v. 5) with him. We today have this assurance through the Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus (Matthew 28:20). With the encouragement comes a warning to be sure to obey God’s law (v. 7). He is told to meditate on the Scriptures (v. 8). Do you allow time to prayerfully reflect on the Scriptures or do you rush on with your day after reading them? Joshua’s first leadership crisis concerned whether he would have the full support that Moses had (v. 13-15). Will the half tribes be with him? Their response shows that they will support him as he follows the Lord (v.16-17). Who are you leading? Who are you an example to? Do you look to serve others? Who are your leaders? Do you look to support them? Do you pray for our national leaders and those in governance (1 Timothy 2:1-4)? Do you pray for those leading our children and young people? Pray for those in leadership and those you have the privilege and responsibility to lead.
Day 8 Thursday 13th March 2014
1 Samuel 16–17 David and Goliath
David, a young man works in the fields, tending his father’s sheep, content with his role and not concerning himself with the future. However, his life was going to be turned upside down. Anointing as king, a place in the royal court culminating in a one to one with a giant. Throughout it all David kept, and indeed relied on, his trust in the God who had strengthened and upheld him as he protected his flock against wild animals and nature.
The last thing Samuel would have expected would be to anoint a young shepherd boy. The last thing David would have expected was to be elevated to greatness, but God had a plan. Maybe God has a plan for you, a role he wants you to play or a job for you to do. What is your Goliath? Are you convinced that there are others far better equipped to do that to which God is calling you, or that you do not have the skills needed? Read the story of David, and recognise that God chooses the best person for the job, and putting full trust in him will result in you succeeding just as David did.
Day 9 Friday 14th March 2014
1 Kings 3; 8:1–9:9 King Solomon’s Wisdom and the Temple
Being the successor to someone great is never easy. Will I live up to expectations? Can I achieve what he has done? Will I be accepted as he was? David left Solomon a legacy of a nation at peace, and a God given task to build His temple in Jerusalem. Solomon was given an amazing offer from God, to ask for anything he wanted. Solomon’s decision to ask for wisdom rather than riches suggests he had a reasonable amount already!
The people of Israel had been nomads for the lifetime of many, spurred on by God’s promise of a land of their own – “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). In all their wanderings they had worshiped God in a portable shrine, the Tabernacle. Now they had arrived in the “promised land” they could build a temple. A sign of arrival. No more wandering. They were becoming established in their land, and God was to be worshiped in his permanent temple. Solomon’s prayer of thanks and dedication rejoiced in the Lord’s fulfillment of his promise to his father David as the cloud of his presence filled the Temple.
Day 10 Saturday 15th March 2014
1 Kings 18 The Prophet Elijah and the Prophets of Baal
It is said that there is strength in numbers. The prophets of Baal probably thought so, especially as they had the support of Queen Jezebel. For three years she had done everything she could to eliminate the worship of God from Israel. The land was in the grip of a drought and famine. A small group of the Lord’s prophets had been hidden and supported by Obadiah, one of King Ahab’s officials, and a follower of God (v. 12). Elijah was not to know about
this remnant, and thought he was the last prophet standing. Rather than cower away he went forward, in The Lord’s strength to confront Ahab and Jezebel, to demonstrate beyond doubt the supremacy of God and the impotence of Baal. The contest on Mount Carmel was on the face of it one sided, and Elijah added to the difficulty with copious amounts of water. However, the result was spectacular. God showed his power, Elijah was vindicated and the prophets of Baal destroyed.
Do you feel outnumbered as a Christian, at home, at work, school or college, among your friends or just as a member of society in general. We often are in a very similar situation to Elijah. Do we have the courage he showed powered on by our trust in God and His Spirit. We sing “be bold be strong” (Joshua 1:9) but have you got the faith to put it into practice? Feeling alone and outnumbered? As someone once said – “Me with God is the majority!”