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,
Keith

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

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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,
Keith

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

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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,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

But What If…

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings
Exodus 4-6, Matthew 14:22-36

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Then Moses replied, “But what if they don’t believe me or pay attention to me? They might say to me, ‘The Lord didn’t appear to you!’”

The Lord said to him, “What’s that in your hand?”

Moses replied, “A shepherd’s rod.”

The Lord said, “Throw it down on the ground.” So Moses threw it on the ground, and it turned into a snake. Moses jumped back from it.Then the Lord said to Moses, “Reach out and grab the snake by the tail.” So Moses reached out and grabbed it, and it turned back into a rod in his hand. “Do this so that they will believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God has in fact appeared to you.”

Again, the Lord said to Moses, “Put your hand inside your coat.” So Moses put his hand inside his coat. When he took his hand out, his hand had a skin disease flaky like snow. Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your coat.” So Moses put his hand back inside his coat. When he took it back out again, the skin of his hand had returned to normal. “If they won’t believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second sign. If they won’t believe even these two signs or pay attention to you, then take some water from the Nile River and pour it out on dry ground. The water that you take from the Nile will turn into blood on the dry ground” (Exodus 4:1-9, Common English Bible).

We come by it naturally. We often will make excuses rather than to something we are supposed to do, but would really rather not. We can see it in the Bible. Today’s lesson is a great example. God wants Moses to go back to Egypt, a place where Moses had murdered a man, for the purpose of freeing the Israelites. Moses is anticipating ahead of time what is going to happen. “What if they say God didn’t call you?”

God has a response for Moses. “Take your staff and throw it to the ground.” Moses does and the staff turns into a snake. Then God tells Moses, “Pick it up by the tail.” Moses just jumped when the staff became a snake. I would have run far and fast. If God told me to pick the snake up by the tail, “Nope, not me. You find someone else, God. Oh, and you can keep the staff. I will cut another one. I”m not touching a snake. I freely admit I am afraid of snakes. I am so afraid of snakes I won’t even watch one on television. I put my hand up to block my view. I know the snake on TV can’t hurt me but hey, it’s an irrational fear. For some people its heights, for others needles. For me it’s snakes.

If we continued reading on in Exodus 4 we would see that the next thing when God doesn’t relent and let Moses off the hook, Moses says, “My Lord, I’ve never been able to speak well, not yesterday, not the day before, and certainly not now since you’ve been talking to your servant. I have a slow mouth and a thick tongue.”

It is another “But what if…” In this case, God tells Moses to take along his brother to be his microphone. There would probably have been more “What ifs” except God had enough of Moses’ excuses.

If you have ever served on a nominating committee for an organization, you probably know what I am talking about. People are full of excuses. There is an old joke that goes something like this, “Everyone has excuses and excuses are like armpits. We all have them and at least some of them stink.”

One organization I know of right now is functioning without a president because no one will take the job. Everyone is too busy or too old or too weak, or too… It becomes difficult for an organization to function without leaders. It is difficult for committees to do their work without members.

What if, through that nominating committee God is calling you to serve? Don’t say to God, “But what if…”

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Opportunities for Growth

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings
Exodus 1-3, Matthew 14:1-21

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Now a new king came to power in Egypt who didn’t know Joseph. He said to his people, “The Israelite people are now larger in number and stronger than we are. 10 Come on, let’s be smart and deal with them. Otherwise, they will only grow in number. And if war breaks out, they will join our enemies, fight against us, and then escape from the land.”11 As a result, the Egyptians put foremen of forced work gangs over the Israelites to harass them with hard work. They had to build storage cities named Pithom and Rameses for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they grew and spread, so much so that the Egyptians started to look at the Israelites with disgust and dread. 13 So the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites. 14 They made their lives miserable with hard labor, making mortar and bricks, doing field work, and by forcing them to do all kinds of other cruel work (Exodus 1:8-14, Common English Bible).

As I began thinking my way through this post one of the things that came to my mind was the first half of a verse from Psalm 23, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger because you are with me.”

We all go through difficult times in life. While we are walking through that dark valley, I think a pretty universal sentiment is, I need to hurry up and get out of here so things in my life can get back to normal.

The converse is also true. When we are going through those great times in life, through the mountain-top experiences, we want them to continue. It would be OK with us if they went on indefinitely, even forever.

The truth of the matter is, we won’t stay in the valley forever. Nor will we stay on the mountaintop forever. I have a theory. The longer we stay up on the mountain, the more likely God is to show up with a spiritual bulldozer to push us off of said mountain. Why? Because the mountain is not where the sheep are fed. It isn’t where growth takes place. The sheep graze on the flat places and down in the valleys. Those valleys, those hard times in life are opportunites for us to grow.

In today’s reading from Exodus we find this verse: “But the more they were oppressed, the more they grew and spread, so much so that the Egyptians started to look at the Israelites with disgust and dread (Exodus 1:12, CEB). The more they were oppressed… The more they walked through the valley, the more they grew. I realize this verse could be read literally and it is still true. But, I want to challenge us to read the verse with spiritual eyes. Read it, instead of a verse about Israel, read it as a verse about you.

Life can be hard for all of us. At times it is hard for all of us. And, of course, we really don’t want to walk the valleys. But, perhaps instead of dreading the valleys and trying to make our way quickly to the other side (something often beyond our ability to control), we should look at these difficulties as opportunities for growth. They are opportunities for God to chip away at our rough edges to become more of the person God wants us to be.

Have a great day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

Joseph Wept

Journey Through Scripture
Daily Readings for 1/20/2018
Genesis 49-50, Matthew 13:31-38

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15 When Joseph’s brothers realized that their father was now dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us, and wants to pay us back seriously for all of the terrible things we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph and said, “Your father gave orders before he died, telling us, 17 ‘This is what you should say to Joseph. “Please, forgive your brothers’ sins and misdeeds, for they did terrible things to you. Now, please forgive the sins of the servants of your father’s God.”’” Joseph wept when they spoke to him (Genesis 50:15-17, Common English Bible).

What would it take to make you cry? Obviously, for some of us, it is more than for others. There are those who believe gender makes a difference. Perhaps it does though I have known some men who cry easily and women who rarely if ever shed a tear.

Most of us don’t cry for no reason at all. There is something that makes us cry. It might be due to a physical pain. It could come from an emotional or even spiritual pain. I can remember following the end of my maternal grandfather’s funeral and my paternal grandmother’s funeral, I was in tears for both. If I said I didn’t shed a few tears when my Dad died, I wouldn’t be honest with you or with myself.

For most of us, those times when we lose someone close to us we weep from the pain of loss. It may not be due to the loss of a parent or a grandparent. I don’t know the pain that goes with the loss of a child but I have seen it on the faces of people I know and love. It could even be due to the loss of a pet. To some that may seem silly. To others, it would seem silly not to cry.

It isn’t any of those reasons we see Joseph in tears in our lesson today. We could look back just a few verses back to the beginning of this chapter and we would see Joseph weeping over his father Jacob. But in this lesson, it is something different.

After all they have been through, Joseph’s brothers still don’t know him. When we first looked at Joseph several days ago, we saw a spoiled child, a child whose father had given him too much, a child who thought he could get by with most anything. That was the child, Joseph. That was the Joseph before he was sold into slavery before he was in prison.

The difficulties Joseph faced in life changed him. Age changed him. God changed him. This was no longer the kid who annoyed his brothers to the point they wanted to kill him. This was a man who worked hard, who rose to power and now was seeing his family well cared for. The troubling part was, his brothers still didn’t know the difference.

Joseph wept because his brothers still didn’t know him. Their lack of knowledge of who Joseph had become had them fearing for their lives. They were so scared of Joseph and what he might do, they lied to him about their father’s last words. Joseph knew they were lying. But, Joseph, much more now than before was a grown man and no longer a child. He knew it was time to move forward.

Perhaps that is a lesson all of us could use to move forward in life. Joseph forgave, and so should we. But, more than that, Joseph worked to demonstrate for his brothers the changes in his life. He is doing so again in the lesson. What was needed by them was, to open their eyes and see. The same thing is needed by us.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

If you have gotten behind on your “Journey Through Scripture” readings, as we finish Genesis, now would be a great time for you to catch up. Tomorrow we begin reading Exodus.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

I Have Been a Traveler

Today’s Journey Through the Bible Readings
Genesis 46-48, Matthew 13:1-30

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Joseph brought his father Jacob and gave him an audience with Pharaoh. Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How old are you?”

 Jacob said to Pharaoh, “I’ve been a traveler for 130 years. My years have been few and difficult. They don’t come close to the years my ancestors lived during their travels.” 10 Jacob blessed Pharaoh and left Pharaoh’s presence. 11 Joseph settled his father and brothers and gave them property in the land of Egypt, in the best location in the land of Rameses, just as Pharaoh had ordered. 12 Joseph provided food for his father, his brothers, and his father’s entire household, in proportion to the number of children (Genesis 47:9-12, Common English Bible).

Jacob answered Pharaoh’s question, “How old are you?” by saying, “I’ve been a traveler for 130 years…” I love Jacob’s answer to this question. “I have been a traveler…”

Jacob could have answered the question, in the same way, many of us would answer when asked the same question, “I am 130 years old.” Of course, our numbers would be much different as far as years than for Jacob. Still, our answer would likely take on the same form.

Jacob’s answer would imply that life is more than the number of birthdays that have passed us by. Instead, life is a journey. We begin in one place and we travel through the stages of life. We see the sites, the events that life brings our way. Just as when we travel, there are good sites, sites we enjoy, and there are some things we see that don’t quite measure up.

When I was in the Navy I saw a fair number of sites in Europe. I loved Portsmouth England. Seeing the old sailing vessel, H.M.S. Victory was a treat for me. I wasn’t as crazy about Hamburg German. I loved Copenhagen and many of its sites. I didn’t think as highly of Cherbourg France. I truly enjoyed Scotland but Dublin (it was during the days of the IRA) didn’t hold the same appeal.

The journey of life is much the same. The birth of a child is a wonderful stop on the journey. The death of a loved one, not so much. Graduation from college is a real highlight of the trip. Losing a job falls short of the goal. The list could be endless.

Just as Jacob sees a human life as a journey, the life of faith is even more so. This life in faith is filled with twists and turns. Along the way, we encounter new and different people that bless us along the way. But, we also encounter those who prove to be difficult. We see things that bring beauty as we travel. But, we also see a seedier side of the human experience, something that doesn’t hold the same beauty. We enjoy moments with God yet, on the other hand, we have those times when God seems to be very far from us.

Jacob gives us an interesting perspective. I have been a traveler… How about you?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved