Silent Again

Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
"Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.
When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, "Don't you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?" But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single chargeā€”to the great amazement of the governor.
Matthew 27:11-14

Two times in one evening Jesus was silent when accused: once before the high priest (Matthew 26:63), and the other before Pilate (and the chief priests and elders). He had every reason in the world to lay out neatly how and why he was innocent, but didn't. He was completely innocent of charges and he remained silent. Jesus Christ showed amazing restraint, when only a week before he was overturning tables in the temple with the money changers. It could have been much worse for Pilate and the religious leaders, but Jesus restrained himself.

How many of us jump at the first opportunity to defend ourselves when we're wronged? And very very few of us have ever been at a point where a good defense could have saved our lives. Nobody likes to be falsely accused, nobody. I'm sure Jesus didn't like to be falsely accused. Obviously Jesus knew the end to the story (both His and theirs) and acted accordingly.

He knows when you're falsely accused. He knows when you've been wronged.

And He knows the end to my story and your story.

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Silent No More

Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you? But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." Matthew 26:62-64

Even to the end, Jesus knew just the right words to say and when to say them. He knew his silence would stir them. He knew that talking about heaven and "at the right hand of the Mighty One" would cause them to go ballistic. He knew all things. He knows all things.

I read this story and others later in the Gospels, and can't help but think that at any point during those very difficult times, he could have called it off, called down a million angels, and went straight home to be with the Father. He had just gone through the Garden of Gethsemane, told Peter that he would deny Him, and watched as His closest followers fled when He was arrested. And now it was about to turn bad for Him!

As we consider the crucifixion and the days leading up to it, consider this: He knows your needs. He knows your hurts. He is waiting, patiently waiting for you to come to Him. Even when you think He's silent, he's thinking of ways to bless you and encourage you and draw you closer to Him.

Read straight through one of the Gospel accounts of his crucifixion this week and think of ways you can draw closer to Him.

Matthew 26:17 – 28:20
Mark 14:12 – 16:20
Luke 22:7 – 24:53
John 13:1 – 21:6

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What If?

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. Hebrews 11:29

There are actually two miracles here. First, when Moses arrived at the Red Sea, he had to know that the Egyptians were near. The Red Sea parts, the Israelites stare at the spectacle in amazement, then bolt across the river bed. But even as they're crossing, they've got to have the nagging thought in their heads, "what if the river bed stays dry for the Egyptians too?" It didn't matter because they were scurrying across and didn't have a long time to answer a lot of "what if" questions. God provided a way out of their current situation and it would be foolish to lament what hadn't even happened yet! Of course we have the benefit of being able to read a few verses ahead, but they didn't have that luxury.

Instead, we have a book that's being written about our own lives. What are you trusting God for right now? Have you turned around to see the "what if" questions: what if the economy collapses, what if I lose my job, what if I can't find a spouse, what if, what if, what if. Living in the present enables us to take in every second with only a rare thought about any of the what if questions.

'What if' we eliminated those two words from our vocabularies and our thought patterns? Would it make a difference?

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The Passover

By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. Hebrews 11:28

The slaying of the firstborn in Egypt was the final plague against Pharoah and the Egyptians. Before this, no human blood had been shed. Now, though, Moses painted the blood of a Passover lamb around the doors to all Israelite dwellings. Then they were to wait all night before going out. Exodus 12:30 tells us there was a great cry throughout the land as the firstborn were slain.

I confess I'm more than a little troubled by this particular passage. I look at it 4000 years removed and wonder why the Lord had to take the lives of so many innocent children. I suspect that as Moses and the Israelites listened to their neighboring Egyptians wailing all night, it took faith just to wait and sort it all out the next morning. They had to have faith that the Lord knew what he was doing when He went to such extremes on their behalf.

I guess not a lot has changed over the years. It takes faith just to acknowledge that God knows what he's doing in our lives and in the crazy out-of-control world we live in. I've written it before in this space, but many of these issues arise so that we make seek Him, for He is the one who knows the answers. If we had all the answers, we probably wouldn't need to go to God.

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He Who Is Invisible [daily devotional]

By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. Hebrews 11:27

Moses pleaded with Pharoah a number of times to let his people go. He was hearing from the Lord Himself. After the Lord sent many plagues on Egypt, Pharoah relented and let the Israelites go. It was their one chance at freedom and they weren't turning back. Pharoah's anger burned against Moses and the Israelites, and he hotly pursued them. The pillar guided them by day and the fire by night.

We may not see a pillar or a fire, but we have to listen to what God is telling us. He just may be telling us to draw closer to Him. He may be leading us out of impending danger. He may be showing us to wait in His presence while he showers us with love and encouragement. Or He may be just waiting for us to run to Him any time during the day.

Moses saw "him who was invisible." The "him who is invisible" isn't all that far from us either.

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Do The Tough Thing

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. Hebrews 11:24-26

Moses could have chosen the easier route of living in Egypt as royalty and lived quite comfortably all his days. He didn't choose the "path of least resistance," but he chose to be mistreated. Wow. The same thing happened with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane (or any number of times after that – even as he hung between two criminals.

But Jesus chose to be mistreated and even killed at the hands of blood thirsty and jealous men.

Moses "took the high road" and did something revolutionary in his day (and in our day for that matter). It's one thing to do things for a cause, i.e., the young man standing in front of Chinese tanks in the early 90s in Tiannamen Square had a cause greater than himself and we still remember him to this day. Fasting for world hunger or living in trees to prevent urbanization are also causes. Moses led his people for forty years in the wilderness. He chose to be mistreated.

We make choices every day that affect our lives. Obviously some choices are easy (what to wear, what to eat). Other choices are not as easy (pulling your children out of public schools when you find out what they've been teaching them or keeping your tongue in check at your persnickety neighbor are other examples). So when we make those tougher choices, we have to ask a question, am I making this choice because it's easy or it's the right thing to do?

May God give us strength to do the hard things when necessary.

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Moses’ Parents

By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. Hebrews 11:23

In Exodus 6:20 we learn Moses' and Aaron's parents' names: Amram and Jochebed. It's probably the first you've heard the names. It's intriguing to me that the book of Hebrews doesn't mention them by name. But that also encourages me that out of the millions of lives in the world, we can remain faceless and God will still know our deeds and our faith.

Secondly, those parents knew the edict against the newborn boys: throw them into the Nile, but let the newborn girls live. We call it infanticide. The parents had faith that if they put the three-month-old in the Nile River that some merciful soul would snatch up the basket and care for the child. They were right. They had faith in a God who was bigger than them giving up their child, as painful as that act must have been. They probably could have been killed by Phaoroh if his people had found out.

We too live in a world that is more concerned about the "choices" of a woman than the innocent child she is carrying. In the near future, we will need some of Moses' parents' boldness to overcome the evil that is at our doorstep. In the end we will need to say, I'd rather trust God than a mere man.

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Bones of Joseph

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. Hebrews 11:22

Out of all the acts of faith that Joseph would be commended for, it was "instructions about his bones" that made the Hall of Faith. Joseph's bones were laid to rest forty years after Joseph died. First, though, the Israelites had to wander through the wilderness. After "And Joseph's bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph's descendants." (Joshua 24:32 NIV)

When the Israelites came into the land with Joshua, the bones were carried there. Joseph's bones are still in Shechem after so many centuries. They rest as a witness to God's covenant with Abraham. He had promised Abraham that his descendants would outnumber the stars in the sky. Even in the last century man has done his utmost to eliminate the Jewish people from the human race. Today those bones are a reminder to us that the Jewish people are alive and well and probably aren't going anywhere soon. The Jews are surrounded on every side from people who despise them and would love to see their total destruction, and yet they continue to exist and thrive. It's nothing short of a miracle from Almighty God.

I call it the "faith not easily recognized as faith" faith. This kind of faith sends missionaries into dark regions of the world for 20 or 30 years with no converts, no church, no "fruit." A hundred years after the missionaries are long gone, a church is borne and begins to thrive. To the people who had been supporting the missionaries, it looked like a "waste" or a lost cause. Not being able to see the fruit of your labors is difficult. But like Joseph, this kind of faith relies on others not seen to continue the ministry.

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Ephraim and Manasseh

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. Hebrews 11:21

Joseph went through a great deal of trouble because of his brothers. In the end, though, Jacob got to see Joseph and his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. It's interesting to note that he blessed Joseph (the youngest) before he blessed Joseph's brothers. When Jacob himself was being blessed by Isaac, he fooled his father. Now he put his hands on Manasseh's and Ephraim's to bless them even though Joseph tried to switch his hands. Jacob corrected Joseph and told him he knew what he was doing. Ephraim, the younger brother, got the right hand blessing, "his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations." Once again, the younger child got the greater blessing.

According to Rabbi Parashat Vayehi, "I suggest to you that when Jacob is blessing his grandchildren he is also blessing every Jew in every generation. Jacob's blessings on his sons were specific to them. But the blessings to his grandchildren speak to every one of us. This is why the blessing of Jacob to his grandsons was chosen as the blessing we bless our sons with every Friday night. To our daughters we bless them to be like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, and Leah our matriarchs. But our boys we bless them to be like Menashe and Ephraim, because their blessing was an eternal one to every future Jewish child."

"May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh." Jacob had faith that those two grandchildren would do great things. Do you have great faith that your children and grandchildren will do great things? Do you bless them to be great?

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