Friday, March 25, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-03-25 [Moses Meditations] Teamwork

8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands."

10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up--one on one side, one on the other--so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. Exodus17:8-13

So, who won the battle? Joshua, Joshua's army, Moses, Aaron and Hur, or God?
- Joshua: who led the army and who the Bible credits?
- Joshua's army: who actually did the fighting?
- Moses: Who prayed for them?
- Aaron and Hur: Whose support kept Moses focussed on his job?
- God

The obvious answer is God - and technically that is the correct answer.
The fascinating thing is that God chooses to work in a team.
- God didn't need Joshua, the army or Moses.
- God was teaching them about teamwork.

Sometimes we get to be the general, sometimes we get to be the footsoldiers, sometimes we get to be the ones doing background work (like prayer, admin, and caring) and sometimes we are the encouraging supporters.

Every person in the equation is important and every person in the equation needs to depend on God to help them play their part.

Sometimes the victory is credited to the general, and the encouragers are not necessarily acknowledged, but everyone is needed!

I'd like to end with a focus on the role of Aaron and Hur. Recognising the need to encourage and support others doesn't always come easily. With Moses it was easy to recognise that his arms got tired and there were visible results when his arms got tired.

It is not always easy to see when someone's battery is going flat and one can't always see the immediate and significant effects that the discouragement of someone who works "behind the scenes" can have.

Make time to encourage the faithful folk who work behind the scenes. It could make a big difference.
EmmDevs will be taking a break for the school hols...

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, March 24, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-03-24 [Moses Meditations] Learning...

Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. Exodus16:4

This chapter contains fairly detailed instructions for something fairly straightforward: the daily collection of food. God provided Manna for the Israelites. It came every morning except for the Sabbath and the people were to gather enough for the day and double on the day before the Sabbath.

It seems pretty simple and mechanical:
wake up, collect manna, eat manna, walk, set up camp, go to sleep, wake up, collect...

But there were some important lessons to learn:
1. God is faithful and reliable.
2. Trust God day by day
3. Learn to follow instructions
4. Some habits are good...

Unfortunately the Israelites soon tired of the routine and complained bitterly. Keith Green parodies the Israelites complaining about Manna:
"And in the morning it's manna hotcakes. We snack on manna all day.
And they sure had a winner last night for dinner, flaming manna soufflé...
What... Oh no, manna again?
Oh, manna waffles...
Manna burgers...
Manna bagels...
Fillet of manna...
Bamanna bread!"

But there are some rhythms that are profitable to repeat over and over and over again. A world-renowned concert pianist still plays scales and a world class athlete still does push-ups.
And we still need to turn to God's Word daily and talk to Him in prayer.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-03-23 [Moses Meditations] Practical Healing

23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter...
25 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. 26 He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you. Exodus15:23-26

Jamie Buckingham was a well-known author who regularly conducted pilgrimages for people who wanted to walk in the footsteps of Moses and the Israelites.

He offers a very practical interpretation of this passage...
Most of the water in the oases in the Sinai had high contents of calcium and magnesium, making them bitter or brackish. It also made the water act as a laxative. The Arab guides who accompanied him used to jokingly say, "one cup and you go for a week."

Throwing branches into the water released sap which bound with the some of the chemicals and sank to the bottom, reducing the bitterness.

Buckingham postulates that the Israelites came from Egypt with gut-fulls of bugs, parasites and worms. (Is this why they were so good at belly-aching?) The waters of Marah (on day three of their journey into the wilderness) was God's practical way of cleansing the people from all their intestinal bugs.

If we understand that the waters of Marah had a healing purpose then the juxtaposition of the idea of healing in v26 with the Marah story makes sense.

Sometimes we encounter hardship along the way and we are quick to complain - we don't always realise that God is working through these experiences to strengthen, heal, cleanse and prepare us.

I am not saying that God is the author of evil and suffering, but we also need to realise that God's way is not always the easiest one. He has a bigger picture in mind. He is more interested in our long-term healing than our short-term comfort. We have to trust that He _is_ the God who heals us and that He will work in unexpected ways.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, March 18, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-03-18 [Moses Meditations] Praise and Family

20 Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them:
"Sing to the LORD,
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea." Exodus15:20-21

Miriam was Moses' brother. She was the young girl who followed the basket that had Moses in it and suggested to Pharaoh's daughter that she organise a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby.

She is introduced here as Aaron's sister and as a prophetess. It seems unusual to leave out her connection to Moses out but I think there are two reasons for this:

Firstly, Aaron's role would ultimately be a priestly one. He would be the one in charge of worship at the tabernacle and responsible for the priests. In the light of the praise song that Miriam brings (probably the oldest song of praise we have recorded in Scripture) and her role as a prophetess it makes sense to introduce her in relationship to Aaron.

Secondly, we also know that later in the story Aaron and Miriam make a grab for some of Moses' authority and it may be that we are being prepared for this by having our attention drawn to their connection.

This passage highlights family and faith and gives us the positives and the negatives. On the positive side: No-one knows us better than family does. They see us "warts and all" and when Moses' family follow in his footsteps in ministry, it validates the sincerity of Moses' faith and example.

On the negative side, even with family ambition and jealousy can creep in and we see this when Aaron and Miriam make a grab for more power. What is good to see is that they are able to sort it out and they return to making a positive contribution.

Finally, as we go into the weekend, let us take note of Miriam at her best, throwing her head back and dancing with exuberant joy at God's goodness. It is great when God's people offer Him hearty praise for the good things He has done. Let's do that this Sunday!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, March 17, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-03-17 [Moses Meditations] Be Still and Know

Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." Exodus14:13-14

The Israelites have left Egypt. Pharaoh has changed his mind and is pursuing with his army. The Israelites are terrified. (It's one thing to take the slave out of slavery and another to take slavery out of the slave!)

When panic sets in, it brings some of its buddies:
- Blame: "It's your fault Moses!"
- Assume the worst: "It's better to be slaves than to die"
- Fight or Flight

Before the Israelites can get to fight or flight (although some may say that they are already fighting with Moses!) we hear Moses bringing a strong and comforting word:
- Do not be afraid!
- Stand firm!
- God is busy doing something big!

Moses is not panicked - he's not blaming, assuming or locked into fight/flight. He is still, open and receptive.

And wonders follow!
The sea parts
The Israelites pass through
The Egyptians are foolish enough to follow.

We are prone to panic. Being still allows even an unbeliever to make a better decision. But for the believer, being still really means "Be still and know that He is God." We affirm that we are not god, our circumstances are not god, our problems are not god, our enemies are not god, but our God is the God of the parted sea, the cross of forgiveness and the empty tomb!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-03-16 [Moses Meditations] Hardened Heart

3 But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it." Exodus7:3-5

This is a difficult subject. Does God make people's hearts hard? People are often offended at the idea that God hardened Pharaoh's heart so that the Israelites and Egyptians would see His glory. Was that fair to Pharaoh and his people?

We have to put it more precisely:
"Does God turn innocent people into evil people?"
or "Does God give evil people enough rope to hang themselves?"

How _does_ God harden Pharaoh's heart?
With repeated appeals and miracles (the plagues) to do the right thing!
Pharaoh said "NO!" ten times!
He had ten momentous opportunities to do the right thing.
He had ten encounters where it was clear that God was at work.
He was given ten clear signs of God's power yet he did not listen.

In the calling of Isaiah we see a similar construct:
God tells Isaiah "Go and tell this people:
" `Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'
Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears, understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed." (Isaiah 6:9-10)

How does Isaiah carry out his calling?
By repeatedly calling the people to repent and return,
by warning them of the coming judgement if they do not repent
and by painting the most incredible pictures of the coming Messiah.

How does God harden hearts? By giving people so many opportunities to repent that when they refuse to, they only have themselves to blame.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, March 11, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-03-11 [Moses Meditations] Persistence Required

Moses returned to the LORD and said, "O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all." Exodus5:22

Moses and Aaron had been to the people of Israel and told them of God's concern for them and His plan for their deliverance. They had been to Pharaoh demand freedom for the Israelites, but Pharoahs are not easily intimidated and his response was to increase the hardship and cruelty to the Israelites.

This is a huge setback for Moses and the people of Israel. It causes Moses to doubt himself and his calling. Instead of making a big impression as Israel's liberator, Moses gets the blame for rocking the boat and kicking the hornet's nest!

But what Moses does right is that he takes his doubts to the right place. He takes his complaint to God.

Even when we are serving God and giving Him our best, things can go wrong. We wrongly assume that serving God is our guarantee for an easy road. This isn't always so. There are often hiccups and setbacks. Sometimes they come from our own imperfections, sometimes from the shortcomings of others, sometimes there is opposition from the evil one and at other times it is simply the brokenness of this fallen world.

When these things happen, it is not unusual for us to feel like Moses. "What are You doing Lord? What did I do to deserve this?" We are not the only ones who have felt like this and we will not be the last.

The comforting thing is that God carried Moses through the "dark night of the soul" and He will carry us. As Moses had to learn to trust God through the vagaries of Pharaoh's hardness of heart, so we must learn to navigate the swamps of setbacks and discouragement.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

EMMDEV Preparing for Easter: LENT

Dear EmmDev friends,
Some of you have already seen this document, but many of you have not.
This is an introduction to Lent (which starts today) and some suggestions for preparing for Easter.
I hope you find it helpful!
God bless!

What is Lent?

It is based on the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the wilderness at the beginning of His public ministry. (Sundays are not counted, so Lent is actually 46 days long)

During the second century it became customary to baptise all converts on Easter Sunday. During those ages of persecution and martyrdom, they had to be thoroughly prepared for the confession of their faith and for their challenging walk with the Lord.

These preparations lasted 40 days – not counting Sundays. Fasting and Prayer played an important role alongside the teaching the converts would receive during this time.

After some time, other Church members felt the need to “do the course again”. This season, always during the European Spring, became the Lenten Season of the Church as Lent is Latin for Spring. Lent reaches its climax on Good Friday and ends on Easter Sunday at the celebration of the Resurrection.

There are two important aspects to Lent:

  • Penitence: We realise our own brokenness and our need for Christ.

  • Preparation: We strive to open our hearts wider for the celebration of Easter.

During this time people add to or subtract from their daily routines with the goal of drawing closer to God.

The idea around Lent is that we add and subtract to our lives so that we don't just move forward but God-ward. Traditionally there are three directions for our “fasting” to take:
Our Lent additions need to do justice to:

  1. God (through prayer, reflection and action)

  2. Ourselves (through the creation of good habits or breaking bad ones)

  3. Others (through charity and kindness)

So, here are some examples:

  • Give up sugar or coffee and use the “cravings” as a reminder to think about and devote yourself to God.

  • Set your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier for devotions or exercise.

  • Reduce your TV hours and use the time to read a good devotional book or to spend quality time with your family.

  • Volunteer some time to help at a charitable organisation or do something to help the poor and needy.

  • Come to church more regularly or join a fellowship group for the 6 weeks

Where does Shrove Tuesday fit in?

In many Christian traditions people would abstain from rich foods during this fast time. As Wednesday is the start of Lent, Tuesday would be used as a day to use up the “rich” foods (eggs, butter, oil, milk, etc) in the house. Pancakes serve this purpose very well! Also, Jesus reminded His disciples that they should not look mournful when they fasted and so the church found it fitting to start a fast with a feast!

Ash Wednesday

Job 42:5-6. Job says to God: "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."

Ash Wednesday is primarily a day of repentance – of sorrow because of what our sins do to God, His work and those around us.

According to the Bible, repentance consists of:

  • a true sense of one's own guilt and sinfulness;

  • an expectation of God's grace and mercy in Jesus Christ, our Saviour;

  • an actual hatred of sin

  • turning from sin to God; and

  • seeking a holy life by persistent effort, obediently walking with God.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Cor 7:10)

In the very traditional observation of Ash Wednesday, worshippers come forward to confess and repent of their sin in silent prayer. They are marked with the sign of the cross, using a paste of ash and olive oil. The ash represents the sorrow and contriteness we feel over our sin. The olive oil represents joy, blessing and consecration which is the work of the Holy Spirit. We are marked with the sign of the cross to remind us that it is Christ who saves us.

Often as they are marked, the priest or elder will say “Your sins are forgiven – go and sin no more.”

Ash Wednesday starts the “Fasting” of Lent on the right foot – we realise how badly we need God.

Stations of the Cross

The more traditional denominations often have “stations of the cross” in their church buildings. They are areas in the sanctuary, usually down the sides, marked by images of Christ on the “Via Dolorosa” (Way of Suffering) The idea is that worshippers can come along for a kind of pilgrimage where they use these images to reflect on their lives and what Christ has done.

This year we will not have our usual “Stations of the Cross” but we will be putting up the “Stations of the Resurrection” to allow people the opportunity to reflect on the Easter events.

Fifty Reasons

John Piper has written an excellent devotional book: “Fifty reasons why Jesus had to die.” We are selling this for Lent and encouraging folk to read it daily as we lead up to the celebration of Easter.

Keeping Perspective...

While one tries to observe these “fasts” and observances as well as possible, there must be no legalism about this. We are not trying to impress God. We're trying to prepare our hearts. Don't be guilt-wracked if you don't manage it all the time.

Lent is an opportunity rather than a burden and we pray that yours will be meaningful!

Theo Groeneveld
(With lots of help from Andries Combrink)


Theo Groeneveld
Cell: 082 551 0752
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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-03-08 [Moses Meditations] Loose Ends

At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses' feet with it. "Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me," she said. 26 So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said "bridegroom of blood," referring to circumcision.) Exodus4:24

At first sight this is a bizarre passage.
God has just called Moses at the burning bush.
He has outlined a future for Moses and has dealt with all of his excuses.
Moses has burnt his bridges and is on his way to Egypt - and now God wants to kill him???
It doesn't make sense!

To get the answer of this puzzle, we have to go back a bit...
When God instituted the covenant with Abraham, He instructed him to circumcise boys on the eighth day. This is unusual. Surrounding nations circumcised at puberty. Imagine little Israelite boys swimming at the water hole with Canaanite kids. "Why have you already been circumcised?" the heathen boys would ask.
"Because I belong to God!" would be the reply.
Circumcision was about being God's people.

Moses did not circumcise his boys on the eighth day.
It seems Zipporah didn't like the idea...
He didn't circumcise them as they got older either.
It was a blatant loose-end - a rejection of the covenant.
And it is as much about Zipporah as it is of Moses.

It is about full commitment to God and devotion to Him.
Moses needed to be a shepherd and not a hireling.
Failure to circumcise his sons would set a poor example and leave his family as hangers-on instead of part of the nation of Israel.
It was a really important principle issue.

When God calls us to leadership - we will need to recognise that He will delve into the dark and forgotten corners of our lives and "clean up" so that we are not disqualified by discrepancies and loose-ends...

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, March 4, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-03-04 [Moses Meditations] Mumbling Moses

But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharoah and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be a sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you (plural) will worship God on this mountain." Exodus3:11-12

(This is a reprint of a dev I sent out in 2007...)

Let's remember the background here: This exchange takes place at the burning bush. The previous chapter describes how Moses acted impulsively, killing an Egyptian slavemaster, and fleeing to Midian. In Midian he names his son "Gershom" which means "alien" and describes the depression that Moses has fallen into.

Now here at the burning bush, God gives Moses a chance to start over, but there's an issue that needs to be cleared out of the way first...

Moses' question appears humble and self-deprecating. If Moses was really being humble then God's answer would have been different. If we put the "I's" in bold then we get a better sense of what this is all about.

As it stands Moses acts as if it all depends on him. _He_ will go to Pharoah and _he_ will bring the the Israelites out - All by himself. I can just picture him get ready to put on a long face because God has given him this impossible task to fulfill.

God's answer makes short work of the objection:
1.I will be with you.
2.When _YOU_ have brought the people out _YOU_ AND THE PEOPLE will worship _ME_ on this mountain.

When the job was done it would be obvious that God had done all the hard work!

Moses thought it was all about him... but WORSHIP says it's all about God.
Moses thought he had to do it all alone... but God says "I will be with you."

(Have a great weekend and let's WORSHIP GOD this Sunday!)

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, March 3, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-03-03 [Moses Meditations] What's in a name?

Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, `What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"
14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: `I AM has sent me to you.' " Exodus3:14

The Hebrew verb "hayah" means to "be." God uses this verse to introduce himself using this simple yet powerful construct. "I AM who I AM."

This has a present and future connotation.
"I AM and will always BE!"
"I AM the constant one!"
"I AM with you!"

In uncertain times He is the the One whose "constancy in presence" makes all the difference. The name doesn't pin Him down or trap Him. He is not "rock" or "mountain." He calls Himself "I AM." No matter where you are or what trouble you are in: "I AM!"

It is this same verb that forms the root of the Old Testament's favourite unique name for God - Yahweh (translated by some as Jehovah) which is the 3rd person form of "hayah" and means "He IS."

People asked the Israelites "Who's your God?"
They would answer "Yahweh! - He, the One who IS!"

When I was a teen, there was a Swedish Gospel Band "Edin Adahl" who sang a song entitled "X-Factor." In the chorus they sang:
You are the X-Factor, eternal life reactor, You are the X-Factor.
You put my heart in motion, activate my inner section,
You are the X-Factor!

I like the idea behind the song. God is much more than a constant but He is more than simply a variable (small "x") He is the "(capital) X factor" - He is the "Constant-Variable" that brings life, change and transformation. Introduce the "X" into any equation and the equation becomes dependent on X.

God IS.
And when He is in the room, things will change!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-03-02 [Moses Meditations] Awesome Caring God

"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." 6 Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians... Exodus3:5-8

Moses has been in the wilderness for forty years (according to Acts 7:30) During this time he has had plenty of opportunity to reflect on the plight of his people: from his own narrow escape from death to the contrast of the opulence of Pharaoh's palace and the enslavement of his people. He has pondered the injustice and his own powerlessness.

Was he searching for God? We don't know. But God was about to find Moses!

Here's how God introduces Himself:

- I am holy: Take off your shoes. My presence makes even the ground holy. I am not mired down by the pettiness of human governments and regimes.

- I am the God of history: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But this genealogy includes the children and future of these patriarchs. Not only the God of history past, but history present and history future. I am the history maker.

- I am the God who cares: I have SEEN their misery. I have HEARD their cries. I am CONCERNED about their suffering. He is the God who sees, hears and cares about our day-to-day "stuff." When we suffer He is concerned.

- I am the God who rescues: "I have come down to rescue them." Israel's salvation did not begin when Moses went to Pharoah. It began when God lit the bush and called Moses. He "came down."

This is how God introduces Himself to Moses and over a thousand years later, these same truths would be true when Jesus came as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, dividing history into BC and AD because He had seen our pain, heard our cries and was so concerned about us that Jesus "came down".

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-03-01 [Moses Meditations] Burns but does not consume

2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. Exodus3:2

"The bush burned but it was not consumed..."

* If you serve drugs or alcohol, you will be destroyed by your addiction.
* If you you are a workaholic, the stress will damage you.
* If you are trying to keep up with the Joneses you may have a lot of stuff, but no friends.
* If you pursue fame and popularity, your goalposts will be forever moving.
* If money is your obsession, you will never have enough.

But the bush burned and was not consumed.
Many have called faith an "obsession."
But when our focus is Christ - then He renews us in His service and even when we lose the world we have gained our souls.

Moses was called to bring everything into God's service.
His life burned brightly with the calling that God had placed upon him. Although he worked hard, put in long hours and made many sacrifices, he burned but was not consumed.

While it is true that many in ministry have had heart attacks and break-downs, these folk have always admitted that they had forgotten the "LORD of the work" and had become obsessed with the "WORK of the Lord."

Being focussed on God is the key.
Jesus said: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt11:29-30)

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at