Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.
In these verses, through the words of Paul and the interpretation of Eugene Peterson, we are invited to Shalom, that is, the pursuit of the right relationship with and well-being for ourselves, one another, and God. Jesus’ purpose in coming, according to this passage was for the reconciliation of us to God and Paul invites us to respond by befriending ourselves, others, and God, through Christ.
- Where do you see reconciliation happening in your life and relationships?
- Are there people with whom you are resistant to extend Shalom?
- How does your befriending of God reflect in your befriending of others?
Gracious God, what a huge and divine sacrifice you made so that we might be reconciled to you, new creations. Help us to become friends with you as you have with us, and to reflect your grace-filled friendship in our relationships with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer; for God thought, “If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.
This passage is often overlooked but has great meaning for us as we ponder the journey that we are on. God in his all-knowing and all-loving character, guided his people in a way that would protect them from discouragement that may have been too much to handle. The alternate way took longer but it was an act of love.
- When has your journey felt long, winding, and indirect?
- How would you describe the journey you are now on?
- What might God be protecting you from?
Gracious God, we confess that we are at times impatient with you and don’t understand your timing. Please give us hearts that lean into you and trust your guidance. In the midst of our journeys, turn our hearts toward you as you promise to be found by us when we seek you with all our hearts, regardless of our circumstances. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
45 I will dwell among the Israelites, and I will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them; I am the Lord their God.
These words are spoken in the midst of the wilderness, as God is giving direction for how worship will be done. It is in the wilderness – the space between Egypt, where they were slaves, and Canaan, where they were headed – that God set them apart and promised to live among them.
- Have there been times when you were in liminal space, between something that was over and what was next to be?
- How did God use that time to establish his relationship with you?
- How is God using your current situation to remind you that you belong to Him?
Gracious God, we have experienced the reality that you meet us in the liminal space in our lives and draw us to you. We confess that there are times where we look for a way out, rather than looking to you for hope and belonging. Give us strength in our current wilderness places to lean into your presence, satisfied to live as people who belong to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
21 Moses agreed to stay with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah in marriage. 22 She bore a son, and he named him Gershom; for he said, “I have been an alien residing in a foreign land.” 23 After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.
Moses spent time in the wilderness before leading God’s people through the wilderness. In his experience, he learned that he was an alien, and in his acknowledgment of his own circumstances, he was being prepared by God to advocate for God’s people who were aliens in Egypt and to lead them out into their own wilderness.
- How has God equipped you through past experiences to thrive in the place he has you?
- Are there places where you are resisting his guidance?
- Who in your life can you bless by sharing with them out of your own experiences of alienation and loneliness?
Gracious God, we confess the times that we are so caught up in our own worlds of hurt and loneliness that we are unable to see the alienation that others are experiencing and to empathize with them. As we come to you honestly with our feelings of alienation and desire for belonging and reprieve from suffering, give us eyes to see others in our world who also need to be seen and noticed by you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
David repeats in 3 different ways the truth that we belong to God – his, his people, his sheep. His declaration of our belonging is tucked in the midst of word of thanksgiving and worship. In a world that seeks to own us – our opinions, our earthly resources, our very beings – it is in worship that we remind ourselves and find hope in the reality that we belong – spirit, soul, mind, and body – to our loving Creator.
- What emotions are stirred in you as you are reminded that you belong to God?
- Who or what comes to mind as you ponder other influences that clamor for your allegiance and belonging?
- How are you experiencing God drawing you back into the fold of His people?
Gracious God, in our worship, turn our hearts toward you and remind us that it is to you we belong. We confess that at times, out of fear, pride, lack of trust, or other things, we seek to find belonging in other people or things. In the wilderness of our context, remind us of your presence and gently lead us back into the fold of your belonging. In Jesus’ name, Amen.