March 1, Friday

Devotional Thought for Today

“A Corresponding Justice of God”

Exodus 7:14-25 (ESV)

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water. Stand on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that turned into a serpent. 16 And you shall say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.” But so far, you have not obeyed. 17 Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile.” ’ ” 19 And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’ ” 20 Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21 And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. 23 Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile. 25 Seven full days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile.

Before God called upon Moses to deliver the people of Israel, we are told that God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that He saw the suffering of His people and knew their pain.  This first plague is a clear sign that the injustice that the Israelites suffered at the hands of Pharaoh was not overlooked nor forgotten by God. It is no coincidence that the waters of the Nile that claimed the lives of so many innocent children, sentenced to drown by Pharaoh, was justly turned into blood. The stench of death that the Nile had come to represent now filled the conscience of every Egyptian that allowed such an atrocity to happen.  I’m sure that Moses, who was saved out of the Nile, would have understood the deep significance of the life-giving waters of the Nile being turned into a lifeless cesspool of blood. God had remembered.

In a world that is filled with so much injustice, it is easy to believe that God doesn’t know, doesn’t care, or has forgotten about the plight of the oppressed.  This passage comforts us with the fact that He does not forget and that in due time vengeance will be His. Of the ten plagues, only this first one is given a specific duration of time, seven days.  In the Scriptures, the number seven is a symbol of God’s completed work and is usually connected to the finished work of creation. However, in this case, the seven days of the bloody waters of the Nile are a promise that God’s justice would be made complete.  

All injustice and oppression will one day come to an end and although we may never understand the timing of God, nevertheless, we can rest assured that His justice will be done on this earth.  

Prayer: Father, help me to fight for the cause of the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized.  When I feel like I am losing that battle, help me to find comfort in knowing that one day Your justice will prevail.  May You give me the faith to see that You know and care about the suffering of the world and the courage to wait for the day of the Lord to come.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 17


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 94:1-23: O Lord, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth 2 Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve! O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult? They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast. 5 They crush your people, O Lord, and afflict your heritage. They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; 7 and they say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.” 8 Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge—the Lord—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.  Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. 14 For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage; 15 for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it. 16 Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers? 17 If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. 18 When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. 19 When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. 20 Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute? 21 They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. 22 But the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge. 23 He will bring back on them their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the Lord our God will wipe them out.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why do evil people persist in their sin?
  2. What is the promise of God in the midst of our suffering?
  3. How does God minister to the downtrodden?  

Notes

  1. Verse 7 tells us that people persist in their evil ways because they do not believe that God sees their sin—leading them to assume that they have free reign to continue their exploitation of the fatherless, widow, and sojourner.  
  2. The promise of God from verse 14-15 is that He will not forsake us or abandon His people into the hands of wicked.  Instead, His justice will return to those who follow Him in righteousness.
  3. In the last stanza of this Psalm, we see that many ways that God ministers to those who suffer injustice.  God alone is our stronghold and refuge and able to bring consolation to the soul. In a world filled with people damaged by the trauma of sin, God becomes our ultimate protector and healer.  

Evening Reflection

In the West, we tend to shrink back from the idea of a God of justice but Miroslav Volf, theologian at Yale, talks about the need to have a God of both justice and love, and that ultimately men cannot be freed from the cycle of vengeance and hatred unless they believe God to be just.  He writes:

“My thesis that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many…in the West…[But] it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human non-violence [results from the belief in] God’s refusal to judge. In a sun-scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die…along with other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.”

Strangely, when we allow God to be the final arbiter of justice, it frees us to forgive and love one another. Pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

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