Thursday Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15

Prayer: O God, let your Word inspire me today to share your kingdom, in Christ. Amen.

Bread delivered fresh daily

…I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. (v. 4)

God tests the Israelites. God promises to feed His people while in the wilderness, but He also means to test them as to how well they can follow His instructions. Therefore God provides more than enough manna, but tells them to only gather what they need for that day. But the people still tried to hoard extra and the extra would spoil. This was a test for daily sustenance. God promised to sustain them with bread in the morning and quail in the evening so they would learn to trust that God will provide for their daily needs.

Our devotion writer reminds us that today we can learn from this lesson that perhaps we are too consumed with “endless worry about whether we will have ‘enough’ provisions for our future.” Perhaps it would be better for us to learn that we have plenty for today so we can share what we have with others because God will provide for tomorrow. We must have faith and trust that God will provide as He has promised.

Prayer: “Strengthen our faith, O Lord, to believe that you truly will provide our daily bread. Amen.”

Exodus 16:2-15

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.

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Wednesday Isaiah 55:1-9

Prayer: God, help us see more clearly the path we need to follow through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

Better than a fairy tale

Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (v. 1)

Free food that is what we like to hear! We live on food, without it we die. Many work in order to put food on the table. Churches like to offer free food to those in need. But as our devotion writer points out, in fairy tales and often in life, free food is an enticement to something bad—Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and the gift of an apple, Goldilocks and the three bears.

It is no wonder why people might be suspicious of a free banquet. Isaiah’s invitation might me one of those. Who gives away free milk, bread, or wine? But in this case the giver is God. “And the food is safe to eat. Indeed, it is the only thing that will give us life.”

There is a trend in God providing free food. Our devotion writer explains; “Isaiah points us to every rich feeding story in the Bible: wilderness manna, Elijah both fed and feeding, Cana’s wedding, the fish and loaves, Easter dinner at Emmaus and the Sea of Galilee, and many more. And each account of free food aims us toward the final marriage feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).

That final, forever feast is already prepared for us in Holy Communion; “a foretaste of the feast to come.” Again our devotion writer; “In bread and wine, Christ’s body and blood, we find our lives and our futures. This is no fairy tale; it only seems too good to be true.”

Prayer: “Lord Jesus, fill us with your Word, your presence, and your love, so that we may truly live. Amen.”

Isaiah 55:1-9

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

An Invitation to Abundant Life

55 Ho, everyone who thirsts,     come to the waters; and you that have no money,     come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk     without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,     and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,     and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me;     listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant,     my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples,     a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know,     and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,     for he has glorified you.

Seek the Lord while he may be found,     call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way,     and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,     and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts,     nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth,     so are my ways higher than your ways     and my thoughts than your thoughts.

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Tuesday Deuteronomy 8:1-20

Prayer: Teach us, O God, through your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Horatio Alger got it wrong

18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power…

I often look my stuff as “my stuff.” I know that it is not just my stuff; it comes by the grace of God, sometimes though I am possessive of it and have to be reminded of where it came from.

Our devotion writer writes about Horatio Alger, who wrote many books where a young man “works his way from rages to riches by means of his exemplary moral character and his victory over adversity and poverty.” I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that although I have heard the name of Horatio Alger many times, I never knew what it was that he did. Somehow in my education I must have been sick that day.

Anyway in reading his books, one would get the idea that the success is the result of one’s own efforts. Today’s text is counter to Alger’s message. In today’s text God reminds us that all we get is from the grace of God. That he has and does provide for us generously. Our devotion writer explains; “That everything we have—daily food, an abundance of natural resources, shelter, and more—comes from the hand of our generous God.” In fact, Israel is warned to not become delusional and begin thinking that they alone are responsible for the wealth they accumulate.

Our devotion writer again; “To think otherwise leads to idolatry of the self, or worse, idolatry of the things we have made or purchased. Instead of boasting, ‘I built this!’ we are summoned to remember that all we have comes from God.”

Prayer: “Lord, I am grateful for all you have given me. Help me to share lavishly, through Christ. Amen.”

Deuteronomy 8

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

A Warning Not to Forget God in Prosperity

8 This entire commandment that I command you today you must diligently observe, so that you may live and increase, and go in and occupy the land that the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. The clothes on your back did not wear out and your feet did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a parent disciplines a child so the Lord your God disciplines you. Therefore keep the commandments of the Lord your God, by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. 10 You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.

11 Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. 12 When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, 16 and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 17 Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today. 19 If you do forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the Lord is destroying before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.

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Monday Numbers 11:16-23, 31-32

Prayer: Loving God, teach me through your Word to trust your promises and know you better. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Up to their hams in quail

Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. (v. 18)

After slavery in Egypt, after crossing the Red Sea, after having manna every day, having no more hunger, the Hebrews had the nerve to grumble that maybe things were better back in Egypt. I am sure God did not appreciate that. How would you like it if your kids cried and cried for ice cream and when you went and got it they would not eat.

Not only were the Hebrews complaining about all the manna, they complained that the menu was too short. They wanted more variety to choose from. They were no longer hungry, so now they were longing for meat and potatoes. So God gave it to them in spades. As our devotion writer writes; “They got quails, lots of quails. Birds lay on the ground, waist high, for miles in every direction. They ate quails until they were sick of them, literally.”

Our devotion writer puts it very well; “How easy it is for God’s people to focus on what we don’t have and to complain. I’m afraid I do it myself sometimes. I forget that all I have—food, clothing, and all I need from day to day—comes from God’s generous hand. This Lord frees us from all the enslaves us and feeds us the Bread of life.”

Prayer: “Teach us, O Lord, to be grateful for all you give us, and help us to be generous to others. Amen.”

Numbers 11:16-32

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Seventy Elders

16 So the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you. 17 I will come down and talk with you there; and I will take some of the spirit that is on you and put it on them; and they shall bear the burden of the people along with you so that you will not bear it all by yourself. 18 And say to the people: Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wailed in the hearing of the Lord, saying, ‘If only we had meat to eat! Surely it was better for us in Egypt.’ Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall eat not only one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you—because you have rejected the Lord who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’” 21 But Moses said, “The people I am with number six hundred thousand on foot; and you say, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month’! 22 Are there enough flocks and herds to slaughter for them? Are there enough fish in the sea to catch for them?” 23 The Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”

24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

26 Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” 30 And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

The Quails

31 Then a wind went out from the Lord, and it brought quails from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, about two cubits deep on the ground. 32 So the people worked all that day and night and all the next day, gathering the quails; the least anyone gathered was ten homers; and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp.

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Sunday John 6:1-21

Prayer: Lord Jesus, teach us to live according to your will through your Word. Amen.

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified.

Our devotion writer finds that the disciples were afraid of Jesus walking on the water during a storm. He seems to think that they were afraid of Jesus. I don’t see it quite that way. I think they were afraid of the storm swamping the boat and here comes a man in the storm’s darkness and they were afraid of dying because people do not walk on water. Jesus identified Himself and told them to not be afraid.

I think that even though their fears were somewhat alleviated because Jesus called out to them, but when the boat seemed to immediately find land may have left an impression that Jesus was there for them and that He was taking care of them. I think the next time I saw Jesus walking on the water, I would not be afraid. I would also hope then next time I was in trouble in a storm of some kind that I would remember that Jesus, My Jesus, would be there for me, because keeping calm and holding off terror might make survival without injury more likely. Am I too logical?

Our devotion writer explains this way; “Whenever and however we find ourselves lost at sea and tossed about in the dark, we need not fear the approach of our Jesus. He comes ever and only to bring us to the shore.”

Prayer: “Lord Jesus, shine on me in my darkness, give me confidence in your love and lead me to shore. Amen.”

John 6:1-21

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Feeding the Five Thousand

6 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Jesus Walks on the Water

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

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Saturday Acts 11:27-12:3

Prayer: O God, open our hearts and minds to the truths in your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

James, Apostle

He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword.

Our devotion writer today brings up the question about “pre-destination.” He writes: “I often hear people talk about God’s plan for their lives. They seem to believe that God has picked out a life partner for them, determined their long-term health status…and even planned if they will have a hamburger or a salad for lunch next Friday.” For us to follow this line of thinking, we risk the thought that God is responsible for all the good AND evil that happens to us; sickness, the drunk driver who caused the death of a son or daughter. They are part of a divine plan. Maybe a divine, cruel plan.

Our devotion writer suggests that it wasn’t in God’s plan to have James killed by King Herod. It was Herod’s idea. We live is a world of some very evil people. God’s plan for us is to be like James and follow his example. Sometimes as in the case of James, we could suffer harm because of our faith and because of our ministry.

As our devotion writer explains; “We are charged to witness faithfully to the love of God, come what may, until that great day when we join James, Peter, and I hope even Herod, in praise of Christ.”

Without pre-destination, our decisions become more important because it makes it easier for us to make mistakes, which of course we sometimes do while stepping off of God’s path.

Prayer: “Lord, in a world I often cannot understand, give me faith and boldness as I share your love. Amen.”

Acts 11:27-12:3

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

27 At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. 29 The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; 30 this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

James Killed and Peter Imprisoned

12 About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.)

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Friday Ephesians 3:14-21

Prayer: Teach me, Jesus, through your Word. Amen.

God’s fullness does more

…the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly… (v. 20)

How do they do that? How does one sit on their death bed and recall with gratitude and joy the many good times and blessings shared with family and loved ones? Our devotion writer tells about the mother of a former student who is just such a person.

Our devotion writer asks; “I wonder how it can possibly be that these people can live with such exemplary courage and faith. I can only conclude that the prayer offered in Ephesians has been answered in them. It is plain to me that they are internally strengthened with power through the Spirit, that they remain grounded in Christ’s love and are thus filled with all the fullness of God.”

It is not only faith, but trust in the promise. In another devotion, today, I was reminded about Numbers 13, where the Israelites were preparing to enter the promised land. The reports by the scouts said there was good news and bad news. As God had told them, the land was flowing with milk and honey, but the natives were very big and powerful. Even with God’s promise that He would help them overpower the natives, they dithered and analyzed and worried and vacillated to the point that they had so much fear they lost hope.

It is those with faith and hope that we can function best with God in charge. The mother of the former student focused not on the present, but on the hope of the future and the positive things God had provided in the past. At the end of her life she was lifted up by God’s Spirit and praised the good things, but did not focus on the fears. God’s will was to be done.

Our devotion writer, like some of us, worry that we could never be so brave and faithful as the mother of the former student. But there is that power working in us that can allow us to accomplish more than we can imagine. God has all the resources we need and whether we are facing death, or like the Israelites facing fear and doubt, we cannot lose sight of God’s promises.

Prayer: “Strengthen us, O Christ. Ground us in your love, that we may face death with faithful courage. Amen.”

Ephesians 3:14-21

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Prayer for the Readers

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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