Scripture: verse 12
For you shall not go out in haste,
and you shall not go in flight,
for the Lord will go before you,
and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
Observation: God is speaking of redeeming and freeing His people. I think this is a callback to Exodus, when they did depart in haste. In Exodus God’s people had to endure ever worse working conditions until Pharaoh finally had enough of a moment of weakness to let them go, and then they had to pack and leave quickly, in the narrow window before he changed his mind.
But God never quite repeats Himself, and our spiritual redemption does not work the way our physical redemption did. We are not refugees in God’s kingdom. We are sons and daughters, who came in because it is our right to do so. We did not time our escape for a moment of weakness; instead Yeshua freed us by His abundant strength. We walk tall.
Application: Relax. You’re much freer than you think you are.
Prayer: Yeshua, I praise you because your life has overcome death. I praise you because you have made sin and death irrelevant to who I am in you. Thank you for redeeming me. Help me to walk in my new identity. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 4
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
Observation: God is telling Israel that He loves them and is with them and they should not be afraid. And then there’s this bit.
The genocides and apparent arbitrariness of the early days of God’s people bother a lot of people. Which is probably a good thing, as we shouldn’t be indifferent to others, even our enemies. This seems to be one part of an explanation: God allowed some people to die so that Israel could live.
Now, God loves everyone, because He made everyone. But He was doing a special work through Israel, and He’d promised to do it through Israel, so He had to continue to choose Israel in order to still be God.
Of course, that doesn’t make sense either, because God isn’t playing a zero-sum game. God isn’t faced with a universe where resources are limited and some people have to lose. On the other hand, God also knows that physical death isn’t the same as spiritual death, and what happens on Earth isn’t the whole story. The work God was doing through Israel allowed Him to offer grace to everyone, including those killed along the way. (How did that work? I have no idea. But it’s not really my business.)
I still can’t say I like this verse. It doesn’t seem nice. But I can’t see it the way God saw it, so I have to trust that He knows what He’s doing.
Application: Trust God. And don’t be hasty to judge the actions of others; you can’t see their situations the way they do either.
Prayer: Father, thank you for giving men in exchange for my life. I don’t really feel grateful – I mostly feel awkward about it – but you clearly did it because you love us. I praise you because you are not dealing with a zero-sum game and you can see more than I can. Help me to trust that you have chosen me. Amen.
Scripture: verse 6
Yet gleanings will be left,
as when beating an olive tree —
two or three olives at the very top,
four or five on its fruitful branches
Observation: God is, once again, reaffirming that He will not destroy Israel entirely, no matter how disobedient they get. There will always be some left.
Psalm 37:25 says, “I have been young; now I am old; yet not once have I seen the righteous abandoned, or his descendants begging for bread.”
Genesis 16 says that God is called “God Who Sees Me,” because we are never beneath His notice.
We are never abandoned. We have never crossed the line and become unforgivable and unredeemable. We are always safe in God’s hands. We may not like it, I admit, but we are always safe.
Application: Trust Him, and don’t despair. You are never alone.
Prayer: Father, thank you for seeing me. Thank you for preserving us, no matter what. Thank you for being faithful to your own promises. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 10
Now you are as weak as we are,
you have become like us!
Observation: This is part of a taunt-song aimed at the king of Babylon after he is fallen, though traditionally the song (at least parts of it) are thought to be speaking of Satan himself. In any case, this verse is the greeting of the other dead leaders he had conquered. No matter how much any given tyrant or destroyer has accomplished, in death he is weak and powerless.
Which is really cool because it was only an hour ago that I was doing a new little resurrection celebration with my family. The thing that sets God apart from the rest of creation is that after death, He came back to life. He was not weak and powerless. And He shares that with us.
Death does not leave us dead. Not anymore.
1 Corinthians 15 says that if Yeshua had not risen from the dead, we would have no hope. And that’s true. We can sing this taunt over the enemies that God has defeated (which incidentally seems a little childish to me, but I’m not going to worry about that), and they can’t sing it back at us. Because we will never be as weak as they are in death.
Yeshua came that we could have life and life abundantly. (John 10:10)
Application: Have hope. He is risen.
Prayer: Yeshua, I praise you because you conquered death. Not just for yourself, as Orpheus and Frigg attempted (for Euridyce and Baldr respectively), but for me and my family and everyone who accepts it. Thank you for creating that final victory. Amen.
Scripture: verse 33 and 34
You are not to go out from the entrance to the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your consecration are over; since Adonai will be consecrating you for seven days. He ordered done what has been done today, in order to make atonement for you.
Observation: This is part of the instructions Moses gave Aaron and his sons after the sacrifices were made to consecrate them as priests. They had been washed and dressed and anointed and sprinkled in the blood of the sacrifice, but they weren’t done – they had to spend a week in God’s presence, letting Him do His work.
What strikes me here is that Aaron and his sons weren’t especially holy or qualified to be priests. They needed atonement like everyone else. They needed to let God purify them, like everyone else. God doesn’t choose us because we are special or perfect or better. He chooses us because He loves us – and that is a fact about Him, not a fact about us.
God’s grace is not a fact about me. It didn’t start with me, I didn’t make it happen, and I can’t make it stop. His grace is about Him. I’m just in the right place at the right time. And He was the one who put me here.
God put you where you are, too. He placed you there to receive His grace. It has nothing to do with what you have or haven’t done. It has everything to do with the fact that He made you and He loves you.
We are safe and loved because of Him. There is no deserving or earning. There is only His love and our decision to accept it or ignore it.
Application: Accept His love and His grace. Let Him work on you. Don’t worry about whether you are good enough; none of us are. He is Good enough for all of us.
Prayer: God, thank you for being my goodness. Thank you for placing me where I am to receive your grace. Thank you for taking all the steps I am unable to take for myself. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 31
…and the two will become one flesh.
Observation: Paul is quoting Genesis 2 here, speaking of a husband and wife coming together. He goes on to say that this is true on two levels: it’s true of individual couples, and it also described a “profound mystery” concerning Messiah and the believers. (There’s one of those places that God’s word is fractal: the little pictures look just like the big pictures.)
But I was thinking about one flesh. Flesh isn’t an amorphous material. It isn’t like clay or bread dough that can be split up and recombined without anyone noticing. Flesh means blood vessels, and muscles and tendons and bones, and nerves and lymph nodes and glands.
So two becoming one isn’t just about emotions or sex or other easy ways of joining. It means joining structures, so that each supports and extends the movements of the other. It means joining circulatory systems, so that oxygen and energy and sickness and healing flow back and forth. Even your proprioceptive sense (the sense that tells you where your body is, allowing you to do things like clap your hands with your eyes closed) and your limbic system (the part of your brain that runs emotions and memory and things) can apply to two people instead of just one.
And that’s what God wants to have with us. Messiah’s lifeblood, flowing through our bodies. Messiah’s power supporting our steps. His desires becoming ours, and ours becoming His.
Yeshua wants to give us the desires of our hearts. He wants to be one flesh with us.
Application: Become one flesh with Yeshua. I’m not really sure how that works with Yeshua, but I know some of how it works in marriage: your spend time together and learn each other and respect and love each other. So spend time with Yeshua and learn about Him – and be open and honest so He can learn you.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for offering to be one flesh with us. You could have offered to be our master, or our father, or our owner, and been entirely within your rights – you owe us nothing. But you offered to be one flesh. You offered unity. Help me believe that. Amen.
Scripture: verse 30
Don’t cause grief to God’s Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), for He has stamped you as His property until the day of final redemption.
Observation: We tend to thing of our relationship with God as something we have to do well at: if we please God, He will keep us. We have to spend all of our time watching ourselves and looking over our shoulders, afraid of screwing up.
But that’s not the case. God has claimed us as His. With the exception of refusing His offer, nothing we can do cancels His claim. He’s already made that decision.
And in making that decision, He gave us the power to make Him sad. My mom has repeatedly pointed out how incredible that is – that the Maker of the Universe would make Himself vulnerable to us. But He did. Because He loves us.
Our job isn’t to work to please Him. It’s to smile up at Him, so that our DaddyGod smiles back.
Application: Smile, I guess. Praise God for who He is, and thank Him for what He does. And love others, because He loves them too.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, help me to see your love as a real thing in my life, so that I remember to smile up at you instead of worrying all the time. Amen.
Scripture: verse 4
He chose us in love before the creation of the universe to be holy and without defect in His presence.
Observation: The creation of the universe was an awfully long time ago. Of course, God is outside time, so I suppose that doesn’t seem like a big deal to Him. But it’s a big deal to us. To know that we were always chosen. That He knew He wanted us to be with Him as soon as He thought of us. To know that there has never been doubt or change in His plans for us. To know that He was planning to bless me, knowing every mistake I would make, before I made any of them. I can’t scare Him away. He loves me.
I’ve been reading a lot of Pride and Prejudice fanfiction lately (don’t judge!), as well as writing some of my own. And this is the crux of the plot in every iteration of that story, as it is in so many others – that the woman believes that her mistakes, her pride, her words, her family, her junk, whatever form that takes, have offended the man so deeply that his love has died and he no longer cares about her. (Sometimes it’s the other way around, of course, but with P&P at least it’s usually the woman.) And the miracle is that that’s not true, that true love can take whatever beating life deals out.
God chooses to love us like that. He looks at our junk – and there’s a lot of junk – and he decides that he loves us too much to let the junk matter. So, just as Mr. Darcy chooses to cover Elizabeth’s lack of fortune with his own, God covers our junk with his perfection. No questions asked.
Application: This is about confidence. About boldly approaching the throne of grace (Hebrews 4). About not hiding our flaws from God, because He’s already covered them. About not worrying about bothering Him with our issues, because He’s already chosen to be involved.
Prayer: Father, teach me to trust you with my heart. Teach me to know you’ve already chosen me. Help me to be confident in Your love and not fear exposure. Amen.