The Culture of God’s Nation

Daily Devotional: Day 139

“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances” (Leviticus 18:2-3, NKJV).

When the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt, His purpose was to make Israel His chosen nation, separated from the nations of the world (cf. Exodus 19:1-6). And, that is what He did. To make His plan work, He painstakingly gave them a unique identity through a set of commandments and the ministry of priests and prophets. What makes every nation unique is its laws, customs, history and culture. To be God’s chosen nation, Israel, too, needed its own God-given culture, customs and laws to set it apart from other nations. The formation of Israel’s identity as God’s people wasn’t easy. But it did eventually take shape.

With this background, let’s get into today’s Bible passage. God’s instruction to the Israelites is clear. He identifies two nations and warns His people not to imitate them: Egypt and Canaan. The Israelites had been in Egypt for about four hundred years, so they were well acquainted with Egyptian religion, life and culture. God didn’t want to take any chances. Being under pagan influence for four hundred years, the Israelites had a lot to unlearn and much to learn about becoming citizens of Jehovah’s nation.

Ungodly experiences or habits from your past, if not adequately dealt with, can carry over into your present life and hinder you from being set apart unto God for holiness. Don’t ignore your past as though it never existed. Identify anything from your past which still seems to adversely affect your present life, face it squarely, and by the power of God’s grace, deal with it once and for all.

In addition to Israel’s past contact with Egypt, the Lord also warned Israel about its future contact with the land of Canaan. When you are planning a future move, don’t walk blindly into a situation. It is important to pray, plan and research about the move, and understand how you will live in the new environment while staying true to God. 

As Christians, we should know that the practices of Egypt and Canaan are alive and well in nearly every culture around the world today. Our only protection is to listen to God and not copy blindly. In the Old Testament, we see that the main reason for Israel’s downfall was the fact that they borrowed the pagan practices of the surrounding cultures. As God’s people, we have a culture of our own dictated by the Lord. It is a culture of holiness and righteousness. No matter where we dwell, let’s remember that we are citizens of God’s holy nation. Let’s not be polluted by the ungodly practices around us. 

May the Lord let His face shine on you and your family today! Amen.

For further study: Leviticus 18:1-30

Uncharted Waters

Daily Devotional: Day 87

“Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, “Jacob, Jacob!” And he said, “Here I am.” So He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes” (Genesis 46:2-4, NKJV).

When God is about to do something big in your life, sometimes He takes you through unfamiliar territory. The Lord can make you great in the most uninspiring of circumstances. He can increase you anywhereanytime. Due to the famine in the land of Canaan, Israel, i.e. Jacob, had to migrate with his entire family to Egypt where his son, Joseph, was a high-ranking government official. This was a new experience for Israel, so the Lord spoke to him in a vision, assuring him of His unfailing love. Israel went to Egypt as an individual; but he returned from Egypt as a nation. This speaks to God’s unlimited ability to transform you and turn your fortunes around. If you know that God is with you, you will also know that all things will work together for good for those who love God (cf. Romans 8:28).

Keep in mind that Israel died in Egypt. Yet God had promised that he would bring him up again from Egypt. Something is missing here, isn’t it? Not at all. True, as an individual, Israel died; but he lived, so to speak, through his descendants who became the nation called Israel. Israel died as an individual person, but he lived as a nation. It takes a miracle to transform an individual into a nation. And that’s the God we serve. Nothing is too hard for Him. Today, know that no matter where God takes you, He will glorify His name through you. He has not forgotten you.

What seems irredeemable in your sight, is redeemable in His sight. Where you don’t expect breakthrough, God will provide breakthrough. From California to Ethiopia, the Lord is God. He can bless and prosper you even in the darkest valley, in the strangest of places. He can make you shine where everyone thought you couldn’t shine. I’m young, but time and time again I’ve seen God’s power turn things around for me when all hope seemed lost. Sometimes you must make decisions that are necessary yet frightening. Fear not. The God of Israel shall give you victory where victory seems unlikely.

Prayer:

My Father and my God, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. You will prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. And your goodness and mercies shall follow me all the days of my life. Halleluiah! Amen.

For further study: Matthew 2:1-15

Faith Is a Risk

Daily Devotional: Day 36

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go” (Hebrews 11:8, RSV).

Faith in Christ isn’t risk-free. This shouldn’t surprise us. If you hate risk, following Jesus would be an unpleasant experience for you. Jesus will take you places that can make you uncomfortable. Consequently, following Jesus isn’t for the faint of heart. When we trust someone, we assume a degree of risk; that’s the nature of trust. Risk can take many forms, including but not limited to, disappointment, financial loss, grief, broken heart and betrayal. We haven’t seen God with our eyes, yet we believe that he exists. That’s a big risk. We didn’t see Jesus rise from the grave, yet we believe and boldly proclaim that he’s risen from the dead. We haven’t been to heaven, yet we’re convinced that after this life, we shall be with the Lord and see him face to face. We’re, for the most part, relying on the testimony of the Sacred Scriptures. This means we’ve taken the risk to believe what the Bible tells us about God and his dealings with people. Where there is trust, there is risk. The fact is, if we’re afraid to take risks, we can’t trust anyone – not even ourselves. And if we cannot trust people – even a little – then we need our own planet, for there’s no risk-free relationship.

It takes faith to even obey God, as we can see from today’s Bible verse. Abraham obeyed God by faith, when he was instructed to relocate. The Bible says that Abraham started out, not knowing where he was going. He took a big risk when he moved his family and headed to an unknown destination. God rewards simple obedience. And when we obey him, he shows himself faithful. The Bible is full of individuals and groups of people who took risks in the exercise of their faith in God. Take, for example, Moses: God called Moses to lead the deliverance of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. At that time, Moses was a fugitive – having fled Egypt after he killed an Egyptian. The last person Moses wanted to meet was Pharaoh. He thought that returning to Egypt would be a suicide mission. Overwhelmed by the potential risks of the divine assignment, Moses came up with several excuses to convince God to look for someone else: “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak. But he [Moses] said, “Oh, my Lord, send, I pray, some other person” (Exodus 4:12-13, RSV). You, too, may have your own reasons why you want to avoid something you know God wants you to do. If so, what’s your fear? Can you trust God to have your back?

Pray:

Daddy, thank you for the honor of being called by your name. Thank you for believing that I can do what you want me to do. Open my eyes to see that you always have my back, and that your hands will always be there to catch me. In the Name of Jesus. Amen. (Enjoy this song by Hillsong United)

For further study: Luke 1:26-38