Don’t Shut Up and Don’t Give Up

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings
Exod 25-26, Matt 20:17-34


29 As Jesus and his disciples were going out of Jericho a large crowd followed him. 30 When two blind men sitting along the road heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Show us mercy, Lord, Son of David!”

31 Now the crowd scolded them and told them to be quiet. But they shouted even louder, “Show us mercy, Lord, Son of David!”

32 Jesus stopped in his tracks and called to them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

33 “Lord, we want to see,” they replied.

34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they were able to see, and they followed him (Matthew 20:29-34, Common English Bible).

Everyone said to the two blind men, “Shut Up! Jesus is too busy for the likes of you (my paraphrase).”

I can’t help but wonder, what would have become of these two had they listened to those around them? What would have happened if they would have shut up? Could these two have survived had they given up on being noticed by Jesus?

I have never been quite sure what the motivation was that caused the crowds to be so insistent that these two men should give up on their dream to see, to have their sight. We have no idea if these two blind sons of God had ever seen before. Whether they wanted to see for the first time or they wanted to see again, they had a dream. They clearly say they want to see.

Many of us have dreams and some people around us tell us that our dreams are silly or our dreams are impossible. Sometimes they are right. Many other times they are wrong.

This week is the Super Bowl. Tom Brady, the quarterback for the New England Patriots (I am not a fan of Brady or the Patriots but his record cannot be denied), was one of the last players taken in the 2000 NFL draft. Brady was drafted in the sixth round. There are only seven rounds in the draft. People told Brady he wasn’t good enough. People told him he shouldn’t even bother. Yet Brady knew his dream and knew his determination. He used the draft snub as motivation to fulfill his dream.

I truly have no idea if Brady is a spiritual man or not. I do know he was a man with a dream that was going to do all he could to fulfill his dream.

What is your dream? Do people try to tell you to “shut up?” Do those people want you to give up? Perhaps their biggest problem is they don’t have a dream for themselves.

So, we have a dream we don’t want to give up.  How do we keep speaking in a way that makes a difference? The blind men kept calling out to Jesus in a very loud manner. The key here is, they kept calling out to Jesus.

If we want to speak in a way that makes a difference, we need to speak to God. And, the way we do that best is to pray. The two blind men’s cries to Jesus were really prayer and prayer always matters.

So does that mean all our dreams will come to pass? When I was a kid I dreamed of being a professional baseball player. It didn’t happen. I didn’t have the skills and it wasn’t within God’s will. My skills, my gifts lie in a different place. And, as much as I wanted to be a baseball player as a kid, those dreams changed and I know God is here.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

A Promise Broken

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings:
Exodus 23-24, Matthew 20:1-1-16



24 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of Israel’s elders, and worship from a distance. Only Moses may come near to the Lord. The others shouldn’t come near, while the people shouldn’t come up with him at all.”

Moses came and told the people all the Lord’s words and all the case laws. All the people answered in unison, “Everything that the Lord has said we will do.” Moses then wrote down all the Lord’s words. He got up early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain. He set up twelve sacred stone pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. He appointed certain young Israelite men to offer entirely burned offerings and slaughter oxen as well-being sacrifices to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls. The other half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the covenant scroll and read it out loud for the people to hear. They responded, “Everything that the Lord has said we will do, and we will obey.”

Moses then took the blood and threw it over the people. Moses said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord now makes with you on the basis of all these words.” (Exodus 24:1-8, Common English Bible).

“Everything that the Lord has said we will do, and we will obey.” Really? Do and obey? Did you forget to tell each other that you had made a promise to God? I ask the questions because about 15 minutes (not literally, but soon after they made the promise) they were already breaking the promise they made to God. It is the pattern they repeated again and again throughout the Old Testament.

Shortly after going to my first appointment, I was sitting at my first board meeting and the subject came up for the church to do something that violated the United Methodist Book of Discipline. Here I am at my first Board meeting and I am already having to deal with an issue that I wouldn’t have wanted to face ten years later. As I think about it, it wasn’t an earth-shattering issue, but it was an issue none the less. And, I really didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot with these folks. Something a far wiser pastor than I shared with me early on, “Choose your battles wisely. You only get so many silver bullets so don’t fight battles you can’t win or when there is nothing to be gained in the fight.”

As I sat there that night, it seemed to me that this was one of those times. So, I decided, preachers can’t always stop congregations from violating the Discipline. As long as they didn’t involve me, I was going to just let it go.

The thought had no more than passed through my head when the person sitting next to me said, “…and we could have the preacher do some of the work on his computer.” Here I was, feeling all proud of myself for having dodged an issue and the other shoe fell and I had dodged nothing at all. As I have thought about it, I am pretty sure I was about to commit a sin of omission.

In the end, I said something that I had once heard another preacher say (I don’t think I know enough to come up with these things on my own), “I made a promise when I was ordained to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the United Methodist Church. If I break that promise I made to God and the Annual Conference, what good is any promise I make to you.”

Everything worked out fine. They ended up not taking the action being discussed and I didn’t hear much more about it the rest of my time at that church.

In our lesson today the Israelites began what they all too often did, they would make a promise to God, fall away from the promise, start to struggle with life as a whole until it was impossible to maintain, repent to God, make a new promise and continue with the cycle all over again.

As I think back on it, I came really close in that board meeting to following the Israelites example and not in a good way. Probably more often than I would care to admit, I do more than come close. I suspect we all don’t just come close, we actually follow through. Thank God, there is grace. And, there is more grace in God than there is sin in us (another thing said by someone far wiser than I).

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved



What Will You Give Up?

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings
Exodus 21-22, Matthew 19


23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I assure you that it will be very hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24  In fact, it’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.”

25 When his disciples heard this, they were stunned. “Then who can be saved?” they asked.

26 Jesus looked at them carefully and said, “It’s impossible for human beings. But all things are possible for God.”

27 Then Peter replied, “Look, we’ve left everything and followed you. What will we have?”

28 Jesus said to them, “I assure you who have followed me that, when everything is made new, when the Human One sits on his magnificent throne, you also will sit on twelve thrones overseeing the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And all who have left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children, or farms because of my name will receive one hundred times more and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last. And many who are last will be first (Matthew 19:23-30, Common English Bible).

Well, it is just about that time of year again. Lent is upon us. It begins two weeks from this Wednesday, and yes, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day happen to fall on the same day this year.

Growing up a Baptist kid, I heard of people giving up something for Lent but I didn’t really understand it. I just knew that my Catholic friends’ plate lunches on Fridays didn’t look as good as mine. Theirs was something that looked like fish and smelled like the dead fish we talked about a few days ago. I also heard that they couldn’t do things like eating chocolate or drinking a Coke. It always made me glad that I wasn’t a Catholic (if you are Catholic, please don’t take offense, it is just something a kid would think).

I was actually quite surprised when I became a Methodist and about nine months rolled by and I started hearing about giving something up for Lent and Lenten worship services. I honestly don’t remember what, if anything I gave up that year for Lent.

For way too many of us, we are like the rich young man in our lesson today. We might be like the little girl in today’s graphic.

I recently ran across something about the rich young man that I hadn’t considered before. The rich young man really wasn’t willing to give up much of anything. He was willing to go and do, but he wasn’t willing to give up his earthly goods.

Though childlike, the little girl in the graphic is much the same way. She is willing to give up something for Lent, however, she is only willing to give up something she really didn’t want to start with. Brocolli isn’t really much of a sacrifice.

Our Lenten sacrifices should be something that is actually a sacrifice for us. It may even be that what you give up is nothing more than time but you take that time and reach out and do something for others with the time you sacrificed.

What we give up, what we sacrifice for God should be more than what we want to do. It should be more than that food I don’t like. I shared with someone recently I don’t like liver or eggs. Giving them up for Lent would be no sacrifice because I’m not going to eat them anyway.

For many people, giving up Facebook or Twitter or their computer is a real sacrifice. Others choose to give up some food item and others that quit smoking (I once knew a woman who quit smoking every year for Lent and then Easter Sunday, she was smoking again).

I would challenge you to be in thought and prayer about how you can be more disciplined by the sacrifice you make or a new discipline with which you will engage. Make it a sacrifice. Make it something that has real meaning. You will be blessed by your effort.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Journey Through Scripture – February


We got started on this Journey beginning January 1st. If you have missed some along the way, do not fret about it. Nobody is perfect and there is a good chance all of us might well fall behind before the year is over. Just work on catching up. It isn’t too late for that.

In January we completed Genesis. In February we begin by continuing with Exodus and Matthew. We will finish both before the end of the month we will have finished Exodus, Leviticus and begin in Numbers on the Old Testament side of things. In the New Testament will finish Matthew and started on Mark.

Below are readings for February:

  • Feb 1: Ex 27-28; Matt 21:1-22
  • Feb 2: Ex 29-30; Matt 21:23-46
  • Feb 3: Ex 31-33; Matt 22: 1-22
  • Feb 4: Ex 34-35; Matt 22:23-46
  • Feb 5: Ex 36-38; Matt 23:1-22
  • Feb 6: Ex 39-40; Matt 23:23-39
  • Feb 7: Lev 1-3; Matt 24:1-28
  • Feb 8: Lev 4-5; Matt 24:29-51
  • Feb 9: Lev 6-7; Matt 25:1-30
  • Feb 10: Lev 8-10; Matt 25:31-46
  • Feb 11: Lev 11-12; Matt 26:1-25
  • Feb 12: Lev 13; Matt 26:26-50
  • Feb 13: Lev 14; Matt 26:51-75
  • Feb 14: Lev 15-16; Matt 27:1-26
  • Feb 15: Lev 17-18; Matt 27:27-50
  • Feb 16: Lev 19-20; Matt 27:51-66
  • Feb 17: Lev 21-22; Matt 28
  • Feb 18: Lev 23-24; Mark 1:1-22
  • Feb 19: Lev 25; Mark 1:23-45
  • Feb 20: Lev 26-27; Mark 2
  • Feb 21: Num 1-2; Mark 3:1-19
  • Feb 22: Num 3-4; Mark 3:20-35
  • Feb 23: Num 5-6; Mark 4:1-20
  • Feb 24: Num 7-8; Mark 4:21-41
  • Feb 25: Num 9-11; Mark 5:1-20
  • Feb 26: Num 12-14; Mark 5:21-43
  • Feb 27: Num 15-16; Mark 6:1-29
  • Feb 28: Num 17-19; Mark 6:30-56

Good reading. I hope you enjoy. And as in January I will continue to write my daily post on one of the daily passages.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Can They All Boil Down to Two?

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings
Exodus 19-20, Matthew 18:21-35


20 Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

You must have no other gods before me.

Do not make an idol for yourself—no form whatsoever—of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. Do not bow down to them or worship them, because I, the Lord your God, am a passionate God. I punish children for their parents’ sins even to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me. But I am loyal and gracious to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Do not use the Lord your God’s name as if it were of no significance; the Lord won’t forgive anyone who uses his name that way.

Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. Six days you may work and do all your tasks, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. 11 Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 Honor your father and your mother so that your life will be long on the fertile land that the Lord your God is giving you.

13 Do not kill.

14 Do not commit adultery.

15 Do not steal.

16 Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.

17 Do not desire your neighbor’s house. Do not desire and try to take your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox, donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor (Exodus 20:1-17, Common English Bible).

The Pharisees asked Jesus about what was the greatest commandment. Of course, most of us know the answer Jesus gave, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40, paraphrased).

So Keith, what does that have to do with The Ten Commandments?

That is a really good question. I sure am glad you asked. We don’t really have the time here to discuss all ten. Had I been writing about Exodus like I did Matthew a year ago, much like I took the Beatitudes one at a time, I would look at the Commandments one at a time. But, to stay even with “Journey Through the Scriptures,” that isn’t possible.

When I was working on my Bachelor’s degree at Sam Houston State I took a speech class during my last semester. There were three United Methodist pastors in that class. In some ways, I don’t think our professor had much of a chance. Anyway, we were getting ready for a speech and the professor decided to use The Ten Commandments as an illustration and asked the question, “If we can’t address all Ten Commandments in a speech how might we break them down for a better understanding?” He looked at the three of us, all sitting together in the classroom.

I wish I could tell you it was me who had the answer. I didn’t. I don’t remember who did, but I know it wasn’t me. But, one of my colleagues said, “We can break them down as sins against God and sins against people.” My friend was right.

The first four commandments, You shall have no other gods before Me, You shall not make idols, You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain,  Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, are sins against God.

The remaining six, Honor your father and your mother, You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor, You shall not covet are sins against people.

When I consider The Ten Commandments broken down into the two categories, “Sins against God” and “Sins against People,” I see perhaps the first evidence of Jesus’ most important commandment, love God and love people. After all, when Jesus said all the other commandments hung on these two, that would have to include those we call, “The Ten Commandments.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

P.S. I would ask you to keep my good friend Rev. Scott Dornbush in your prayers. Scott had a major heart attack and is currently in a Houston area hospital in ICU. He and his family would appreciate your prayers. Thanks, JKB.

The Shared Burden

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings
Exodus 16-18, Matthew 18:1-20

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law’s suggestions and did everything that he had said. 25 Moses chose capable persons from all Israel and set them as leaders over the people, as officers over groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. 26 They acted as judges for the people at all times. They would refer the hard cases to Moses, but all of the minor cases they decided themselves. 27 Then Moses said good-bye to his father-in-law, and Jethro went back to his own country (Exodus 18:24-27, Common English Bible).


I had a friend, some years ago, who was a school teacher. He taught industrial technology. It was metal shop on steroids. He loved working with kids and seeing them improve. Many of his students, upon leaving high school had the job skills to send them straight into the workforce where they were productive. Being at a school where few kids planned to go to college and where kids often left school before graduation. This particular school had among the highest drop out rates of any school in Houston.

At the beginning of every school year, he would give the kids problems to solve. It wasn’t a math problem, he wasn’t any more of a mathlete than I am (I still say math was invented by demon possessed people who are trying to drive us all nuts). These problems included things like writing the directions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich where students would learn the devil is in the details. Another was to make a vehicle that could fly a paperclip 25 feet and it couldn’t be an airplane. The point was to look for the obvious/easy answers first.

Another exercise he did with his students as to divide them into groups and set them at some of the tables in the shop. Each table had a box of supplies and they couldn’t use anything that was not in the box. They were to build a tower as tall as possible to teach them the importance of teamwork. He loved to say, “All of us are smarter than one of us.”

Moses was overwhelmed. He was trying to lead this group of probably more than a million people. The reading for today said six hundred thousand men. That didn’t include women and children. So that would likely mean well over a million. That is a huge group for one man to lead, hear complaints both large and small, judge and who knows what else.

Moses was overwhelmed. So he set up a system where a case went before other judges first. Then only the most difficult issues went to Moses. It was teamwork that ruled the day. As my friend said, all of us are smarter than one of us.

Those students shared the burden of the project. It is what made them successful. And he taught them in a unique way the students will never forget. The students will be more successful when they share the burden.

A few churches back, we were getting ready for something I can’t remember. One of the men came up to me and said, “We need a good visitation program to canvas the city and invite people to come to church. Preacher, you want to take care of that. You have plenty of time.”

“We can’t do this. We plan to keep our pastor for a while” someone else said.

The first person truly believed that preachers only worked on Sunday. He had in mind that instead of sitting around the office doing nothing, I could be out there drumming up more business.

My reply was, “When you have time I would be glad to accompany you.” We never went out visiting.

I knew this was going to be difficult alone. But, when we have a team to share the burden, the difficult becomes not only something we can do, it can become simple.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

I Just Don’t Get It

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings
Exodus 14-15, Matthew 17


10 As Pharaoh drew closer, the Israelites looked back and saw the Egyptians marching toward them. The Israelites were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt that you took us away to die in the desert? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt like this? 12 Didn’t we tell you the same thing in Egypt? ‘Leave us alone! Let us work for the Egyptians!’ It would have been better for us to work for the Egyptians than to die in the desert.”

13 But Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. Stand your ground, and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never ever see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you. You just keep still.”

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to get moving. 16 As for you, lift your shepherd’s rod, stretch out your hand over the sea, and split it in two so that the Israelites can go into the sea on dry ground. 17 But me, I’ll make the Egyptians stubborn so that they will go in after them, and I’ll gain honor at the expense of Pharaoh, all his army, his chariots, and his cavalry. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I gain honor at the expense of Pharaoh, his chariots, and his cavalry” (Exodus 14:10-18, Common English Bible).

Some thirty plus years ago, when I was a sophomore (with enough hours to be a junior) and a student older than average at San Jacinto College, I knew I was approaching the time I would need to transfer to a four-year school. But, being the terrible math student that I was, I thought I would probably be better off to get my math requirement out of the way while I was at San Jac. Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time, little did I know that before I finished my Bachelor’s degree my degree plan would require yet another math class.

I truly don’t think I would have passed College Algebra without my wife serving as my private tutor. I seriously think she has forgotten more math than I have ever known. And, she very patiently worked with me (I don’t know how she did it). Later I saw her patiently tutor some of the kids in the churches I have served as well as our communities (I understood her patience better with them).

I still remember the routine well. Cindy would work through a problem with me. When she finished I would look at her and say, “I just don’t get it.” I have no idea how many times I said that to her. I think she could have told me at one time but perhaps by now, she has forgotten.

I used to save that line, “I just don’t get it” for things like Algebra and Geometry. But since seminary days, I have broken the line out once again. It is probably my favorite line to use when it comes to the Israelites. I just don’t get it.

Were not these people paying attention to what God was doing around them when God won them their freedom? Plagues and riches (obtained from the Egyptians) and freedom, etc. Didn’t they notice? I know this all happened centuries before Paul but perhaps they needed to hear his line, “So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31, CEB)

And, when you finish reading the rest chapter 14 you will have no trouble seeing God proving God is for them once again. Perhaps this time they will actually pay attention. No, I’m just kidding. If we know anything about the Israelites it would be, they learned really, really slowly.

But, make no mistake, God was definitely for them. They could see it when they looked back at the Red Sea from the other side when they saw, as the old youth camp song says, “…all of Pharaoh’s army did the dead man’s float.”

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved


So They Robbed the Egyptians

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings
Exodus 12-13, Matthew 16

Israel in Egypt by Edward Poynter

33 The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the land because they thought, We’ll all be dead. 34 So the people picked up their bread dough before the yeast made it rise, with their bread pans wrapped in their robes on their shoulders. 35 The Israelites did as Moses had told them and asked the Egyptians for their silver and gold jewelry as well as their clothing. 36 The Lord made sure that the Egyptians were kind to the people so that they let them have whatever they asked for. And so they robbed the Egyptians.

37 The Israelites traveled from Rameses to Succoth. They numbered about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. 38 A diverse crowd also went up with them along with a huge number of livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 They baked unleavened cakes from the dough they had brought out of Egypt. The dough didn’t rise because they were driven out of Egypt and they couldn’t wait. In fact, they didn’t have time to prepare any food for themselves.

40 The length of time that the Israelites had lived in Egypt was four hundred thirty years. 41 At the end of four hundred thirty years, on that precise day, all the Lord’s people in military formation left the land of Egypt. 42 For the Lord, that was a night of intent watching, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For all Israelites in every generation, this same night is a time of intent watching to honor the Lord (Exodus 12:33-42, Common English Bible).

I was riding with a church member one day several years ago. I don’t remember where we were going or what exactly we were doing. I do remember we were riding in his truck and he looked over at me and said, “I stole this truck.”

That caused me to look at him with a raised eyebrow. He started laughing. He had not literally stolen his truck. He said that to get my attention. It certainly worked. He explained how he had “stolen” the truck.

He bought the truck from a woman who was recently widowed. It was almost brand new and her husband had paid cash for it. Within three months he was dead and she no longer wanted the truck. It reminded her of him and in her grief she just wanted the truck gone.

My church member was prepared to her fair-market value for the truck. Before he could say much she quoted him a price that was much lower than he expected to pay. He told her it wouldn’t be a fair price. She didn’t care. He shared with me that he even tried to get the lady to look at the “blue book” value of the truck. She wouldn’t even look. She insisted he was a nice man and to take the difference and take his wife out for dinner. As he told me the story he laughed. He said he and his wife could have eaten out every night for a year and still had money left over. That is how he “stole” that truck.

Today’s lesson from Exodus says that the Israelites robbed the Egyptians. Just before that, Moses tells them to ask the Egyptians for their silver and gold. The Egyptians gave them what they asked for and Israel took it on their way out of town.

When my wife and I bought our retirement home we had a home inspector come and do an inspection. The inspector was a friend of ours and he asked what we were paying for the home. I told him. He said like that church member said, “You are stealing this place.” Trust me, paying that much money didn’t feel like a steal and if it was, I am still stealing it and will be for several more years.

Sometimes we might say a particular deal is a “steal.” And, of course, we don’t mean that literally. But, it seems to me, we have to be careful. For most of us, such language, particularly heard by the wrong ears could seriously damage our witness. We need it to be obvious to the world that our business actions are always above board. And, as I interpret this passage, such was the case for the Israelites too.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

On Losing What Matters Most

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings
Exodus 9-11, Matthew 15:21-39


Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, This is what the Lord, the Hebrews’ God, says: Let my people go so that they can worship me. If you refuse to let them go and you continue to hold them back, the Lord will send a very deadly disease on your livestock in the field: on horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, and flocks. But the Lord will distinguish Israel’s livestock from Egypt’s livestock so that not one that belongs to the Israelites will die.” The Lord set a time and said, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this in the land.” And the next day the Lord did it. All of the Egyptian livestock died, but not one animal that belonged to the Israelites died. Pharaoh asked around and found out that not one of Israel’s livestock had died. But Pharaoh was stubborn, and he wouldn’t let the people go (Exodus 9:1-7, Common English Bible).

I know. Let me say that up front. I know the most important thing for any of us is not any of our stuff, it is our relationship with God. That being said, imagine losing the most important earthly thing in your life? It happens to people on a fairly regular basis. Fires burn down homes. People are unable to pay for homes and the property faces foreclosure. Here in southeast Texas about five months ago, many people lost their homes due to Hurrican Harvey. For many of us, me included, the most valuable thing we own is our home. For some, it might be their car, but the same kinds of things can happen with them.

For the ancients of the Old Testament era the most important, the most valuable thing they owned was their livestock. And, I have to tell you, this passage bothers me. The people who are suffering the most because God hardened Pharaoh’s heart isn’t Pharaoh. Of course, the Israelites in slavery suffer most but just after them would be the average Egyptian. Average Joe on the street lost all his livestock. He lost the most valuable thing he had and the place of his birth is all he did wrong. Isn’t God punishing the wrong guy?

For Pharaoh, sure he lost his livestock too, but it wasn’t the only thing he owned. Besides, just with his attitude in general, stealing the Israelites cattle isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

Whenever we see someone who is a victim, it seems to me, our hearts should reach out to them. At least for the most part, just as the Israelites had done nothing wrong, the average Egyptian had done nothing wrong. If the story went as I would want, the Israelites would have held a huge barbecue and helped out their Egyptian neighbors. It may have happened on an individual basis. We have no way to know.

Without question, the world was different in those days. God hadn’t given any of the commandments yet. The world didn’t know, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The important thing is, we do. When our neighbor losses the thing of greatest value, even the greatest earthly value, it is up to us to love our neighbor and we make that real by sharing what we have.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Have You Ever Smelled a Dead Fish?

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings
Exodus 7-8, Matthew 15:1-20


20 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded. He raised the shepherd’s rod and hit the water in the Nile in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21 The fish in the Nile died, and the Nile began to stink so that the Egyptians couldn’t drink water from the Nile. There was blood all over the land of Egypt.22 But the Egyptian religious experts did the same thing with their secret knowledge. As a result, Pharaoh remained stubborn, and he wouldn’t listen to them, just as the Lord had said. 23 Pharaoh turned and went back to his palace. He wasn’t impressed even by this. 24 Meanwhile, all the Egyptians had to dig for drinking water along the banks of the Nile River, because they couldn’t drink the water of the Nile itself. 25 Seven days went by after the Lord had struck the Nile River (Exodus 7:20-25, Common English Bible).

My wife called me a few nights back. When she came home from work there was a smell in the house. No, it wasn’t a dead fish smell. She said it was more like rotten eggs. I thought it might have been natural gas. It wasn’t and it turned out to be something pretty simple and easily fixed.

Things weren’t so easy for Pharaoh. He had a huge problem. When Moses touched his staff on the waters of the Nile, turned to blood and all the fish in the river died. It was a huge, smelly mess. It can be bad enough to smell one dead fish. Think about the stench coming off of thousands of dead fish. And the problem, it lasted for seven days. There were seven days of trying to find drinkable water because the water in the Nile was not palatable. Truth to tell if today’s water tests had existed in Moses’ day the water would not have been usable for much longer than a week.

Smell is one of our most powerful senses. If God didn’t have Pharaoh’s attention before, by the time Pharaoh and the Egyptians had dealt with a week of this mess, God certainly should have had their attention going forward.

There had already been one nasty event in this chapter (more of the evil snakes) and there would be more of the “plagues” to come. Pharaoh wasn’t going to give up this easily. In chapter eight alone Pharaoh and the Egyptians would have to deal with frogs, lice, and insects. And still, God wasn’t done.

Earlier in chapter seven, God had told Moses and Aaron that God would show many signs and amazing acts. God is already living up to that promise. And, it would take much more before Pharaoh would let God’s people go.

These were God’s destructive acts. We can see some of God’s mighty acts too, much more mighty than just the smell of dead fish. We can see God’s positive acts in the world around us. It is just up to us to open our eyes and see and smell what God is doing. If we pay attention, instead of the smell of dead fish, we might smell an early morning rain on a spring day. We might smell a rose growing in a garden or a gardenia growing on the side of a neighbor’s home. We could even smell a patch of wildflowers on the side of a highway. To smell the mighty acts of God it doesn’t take a dead fish. It just takes an alert mind, looking and smelling for the hand of God.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved