Advent, Advent Devotional, Christmas, Promised Hope

Lord, Have Mercy!

EXODUS 14-40

On the other side of the Red Sea, the Israelites lifted their voices in praise to the One who had delivered them from Egypt. But then they got thirsty. And complained. Some days freedom tasted like bitter water. Some days it tasted like nothing at all. As the newly freed people plodded toward this promised land, all they could think about was the place of their past. Ugly, but familiar. Oppressive but predictable.

Three months after leaving Egypt, they camped at a place Moses knew. He had removed his sandals there.

Hearing God speak to him again, Moses kept his sandals on and climbed Mount Sinai.

God’s words were clear.

Hear my voice. Obey my words. Keep my covenant. Then you will be My treasure.

The people agreed.

But it proved much easier to agree than to obey.

Moses trekked up and down the mountain so often that he must have known every crevice and good rock for resting. On one such journey, Moses remained with God for forty days and forty nights, swallowed in God’s glory! (I cannot wait to be swallowed in His glory, my friends!)

Meanwhile, with Moses gone, the people at the bottom of the mountain began to worry. They started begging for a god they could see. To pacify them, Aaron made them a golden calf. But God saw and His anger burned against the stiff-necked people. He wanted to start over with Moses. (Start over? Again?)

Moses interceded for his people, and God showed His mercy.

Back down the mountain, Moses, too, became angry. Though he begged God to show mercy, he became furious at the people’s behavior. He hurled the chiseled tablets to the ground. They lay broken.

Just like the covenant.

Again, Moses interceded on their behalf, offering his own life for theirs. God showed His mercy.

Hope showed mercy.

REFLECTION

Can you imagine? The fear of these newly freed people? The forgetfulness of God’s provision and protection. I can be pretty quick to judge these people who couldn’t and wouldn’t trust God, even after the waters waited and the manna fell without fail. What’s my excuse?

God called them stiff-necked, a description of a stubborn ox, unresponsive to the rope around their neck used to guide them. These people were unresponsive to God’s guidance.

But none of these people had ever lived free; they were born into slavery. Their life of bondage had misshaped their hearts to self-protect, to live in survival mode. They lived in a cycle of fear, doubt, and disobedience.

God showed His mercy. But God wasn’t playing. Though He showed them mercy on that mountain, they left Mount Sinai with detailed and specific instructions on how to live as a holy nation, set apart. A people who loved Him and obeyed Him.

Then you will be My treasure.

PRAYER

Lord, I, too, can grumble and complain. I too easily forget Your promise to provide for me. Other times, I would rather provide for myself, not depend on You at all. (That doesn’t sound awful at all..) When I long for the predictable past, remind me that my future with You is always better. When I’m tempted to return to the good old days, help me orient my heart toward You and what You are doing in the present.

And Father, I am forever grateful for Your mercy, new every morning. At one time, I did not know Your mercy, but now I have received Your mercy. Let me always rejoice with a glorious joy founded in Your love for me. Amen.

WORSHIP

Fear. Doubt. Disobedience. The effects of the Garden linger still. Do they not?

Cycles are hard to break. We think. We do. We feel. We think. We do. Okay. Yes. You get the picture.

But God is merciful. Still. And those mercies are new every day.

Did you fail yesterday? You screamed when you could have been calm. You avoided when you could have said hello. You lied because it was easier than the truth. You had coffee with him because he understands you so much better. You binged on that package of cookies. You were rude to the waitress because you didn’t allow enough margin in your lunch break. You were critical when you could have been supportive.

Gosh! Where is that new morning mercy?

Where it always is, my friend. In the arms of a Heavenly Father who loves you. Oh, some sweet confession is helpful. Necessary. But the mercies are never too far. He is faithful even in our unfaithfulness.

So, lose yourself in the arms of the One who loves you. Empty your heart and mind of yesterday’s junk. Receive God’s mercy. And be intentional about living better today.

Doing better always begins with thinking better. And thinking better begins with filling our minds with God’s truth. You cannot go shopping for truth at flea markets and garage sales. Trust me on this.

So for today, let us commit to choosing one of the scriptures below to think about throughout the day. Let it marinate in your brain. Let it find its way into your thoughts. And from there, I pray it finds your heart. Your hands. Your feet.


Romans 12:2 ESV  

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Philippians 4:8 ESV  

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:6-7 ESV

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 ESV  

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

1 Peter 1:13 ESV

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

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