Sunday March 4th
Here’s a little story to show you how men and women communicate differently:
A certain man’s wife sent him to the grocery store with these instructions, “Honey, please get one loaf of bread, and if they have eggs, get a dozen.” So he comes home with a dozen loaves of bread. She just stares at him and says, “Why in the world would you buy 12 loaves of bread?” So he tells her, “They had eggs. And you said ‘get one loaf of bread, but if they have eggs, get a dozen!”
So the people of Israel were hungry for bread too! And God was going to provide for them in a very unique way.
Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt.
Did you notice that phrase “the wilderness of Sin”? This was apparently an actual name of a place that was located in the southwest region of the Sinai desert, but how true is that statement about where sin leaves us – in the wilderness! Lost, wandering, and with no way out.
And sin won’t just leave you lost, it will leave you hungry! Which is what the Hebrews began to find out.
2 The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The sons of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Ah—yeah---but you were slaves! Did you forget that?
Remember, this isn't the first time the Israelites grumbled. In Exodus 14:11, right before God parted the Red Sea, they said to Moses “was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?”
And notice where they are grumbling - “In the desert” People don’t complain when things are going their way. It’s when things aren't going the way that we want them to that we have a tendency to complain. We grumble because of the circumstances we’re in. We quickly forget the many times that God has rescued us and blessed us and provided for us in the past.
Let’s face it, the desert isn’t flowing with milk and honey. It’s dry and it’s hot. The people of Israel weren’t in the Promised Land yet, they were on a journey to the Promised Land. In the same way, our journey through life isn't always filled with ease, comfort, and pleasure. We sometimes go through desert times of trials and hardships because we live in a fallen world.
But the good news is that God makes sure to provide for us all along our journey.
And even though the Israelites should have known that by now, it didn't stop them from doubting and grumbling.
In fact after God gave them exactly what they grumbled for they grumbled about it again in Numbers 11:4-6
“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, 'If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
God's grace is truly amazing, isn’t it? Even when the Israelites were so ungrateful, He fed them. God could have rained down fire and brimstone on them for complaining but instead he rained down bread from heaven.
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the sons of Israel, “At evening you will know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt; 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, for He hears your grumblings against the Lord; and what are we, that you grumble against us?”
8 Moses said, “This will happen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.”
9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, ‘Come near before the Lord, for He has heard your grumblings.’”10 It came about as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”
The people cried for both bread and meat back in verse 3, and God gave them both. The Manna from heaven is actually called the “bread of the angels” in Psalm 78:25 “Man did eat the bread of angels;
He sent them food in abundance.”
The meat came in the form of quails:
13 So it came about at evening that the 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 evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. 15 When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.
Quail are small migratory game birds that are connected to the partridge family (not the singing group)
In the original Hebrew the word that we say as manna is simply mon. So what does mon mean? Well, mon is actually Egyptian for “what.” Over the years that they had lived in Egypt, a fair amount of the Egyptian language had seeped into the Hebrew vocabulary. So when they called it “manna” what they were saying was literally, “What is it?”
Do you remember back in verse 4 where God told Moses, “I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction”?
Now we’re going to see exactly what instructions they were given regarding the manna:
16 This is what the Lord has commanded, ‘Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.’” 17 The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. 18 When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat. 19 Moses said to them, “Let no man leave any of it until morning.”20 But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them. 21 They gathered it morning by morning, every man as much as he should eat; but when the sun grew hot, it would melt.
It really shouldn’t come as any surprise, knowing what we’ve already seen of the Israelites, and knowing what we’ve already seen of ourselves, that the people can’t obey even the simplest of instructions. God says, “Just take as much as you need for today, and don’t try to save any for tomorrow. I’ll give you more tomorrow.”
But what do the people try to do? They try to hoard some for the next day. Just in case. The question is, just in case what? Just in case God didn’t keep His promise tomorrow!
That’s what it really comes down to. Are we going to trust God to take care of us tomorrow the same way He did today, and yesterday, and the day before that, and every day of our lives?
And what was the end result of not trusting God? Wormy, stinky bread!
Do you want to try to live your life without fully trusting in and depending on God? Well then don’t be surprised when things end up wormy and stinky!
So God gives them plenty for each day and for good measure God gave them extra Sabbath grace:
22 Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23 then he said to them, “This is what the Lord meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” 24 So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul nor was there any worm in it. 25 Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, there will be none.”
27 It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. 28 Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions? 29 See, the Lord has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
Do you see what I mean about Sabbath grace? On any of the other days, trying to save some manna for tomorrow won’t work, but on the day before the Sabbath it will. Why?
Because God wants His people to be free of their worldly cares to be able to spend time with Him.
And the same thing is true for us. In the hustle and bustle and struggle of life, God wants us to be able to take time just to be with Him. And He will take care of the burdens and the distractions that might be keeping us from being with Him, if we will just trust Him and do things the way that He has shown us. Time with God doesn’t just matter to us, it matters to HIM!
The people of Israel would spend 40 years in that wilderness journey. And every single day, without fail, God would provide for their needs.
Anyone here today who is at least 40 years old can say the same thing – that God has been there for you every single day of your life. We should never forget that.
In fact, Moses told the people to do a very specific thing so that they wouldn’t forget what God had done for them:
31 The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey. 32 Then Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded, ‘Let an omerful of it be kept throughout your generations, that they may see the bread that I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” 33 Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omerful of manna in it, and place it before the Lord to be kept throughout your generations.” 34 As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the Testimony, to be kept.35 The sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. 36 (Now an omer is a tenth of an ephah.)
It doesn’t help too much to say that “an omer is a tenth of an ephah” if you don’t know what an ephah is! But scholars say that an omer was about two quarts of manna so everyone had plenty to eat each day.
In verse 33 Moses tells them to take some of the manna and put it in a jar. Hebrews 9:4 points out that this jar of manna was kept within the Ark of the Covenant:
“having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant”
How does all of this apply to us today? Let’s start with this:
Philippians 2:14 says, "Do everything without grumbling or arguing.”
Can we be just as easily led to grumble and complain as the people of Israel were? Unfortunately yes, because that’s the tendency of our old nature.
But the apostle Paul specifically warns us in 1st Corinthians 10:6-11
“Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
Does that mean that God will send serpents to destroy us if we complain? Probably not, but what can end up happening is that we might end up missing out on some of our blessings because we’re complaining so much.
That’s what ended up happening to this group of Israelites. They were complaining so much on the journey that they never made it to their destination!
They missed out on the Promised Land!
Look at Numbers 14:22 where God declares:
“not one of the men who saw my glory and miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times. Not one of them will see the land I promised them...”
And our Promised Land is even better than the one that was promised to them.
Theirs was just a place – ours is a person!
They were being led to Israel – we are being led to Jesus!
In John 6:48, Jesus calls Himself the “bread of life”.
Then He goes on to say in verses 49-51 “Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
That’s what we were proclaiming this morning when we shared in communion. Jesus is all the bread we will ever need. Do you have needs? Jesus can meet those needs!
It doesn’t matter what kind of need. It doesn’t matter how big or how small.
Philippians 4:19 says “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Let’s choose to trust God today to meet whatever need we are facing through the abundant riches of Jesus, the true manna from heaven!
Song of Victory (Exodus 15:1-21)
It was wonderful to witness certain members of the Superbowl winning Philadephia Eagle's give glory to God after their victory. Success will either elevate one's ego or be used as a platform to elevate the name of God. The humble recognize that the hand of God is behind their every feat. The proud love to rub it in the face of their opponents not realizing that they are creating their own fall.
The children of Israel experienced their own victory parade after the crossing of the Red Sea. It was now time to celebrate, the end of 400 years of captivity was over, so the people began to dance and sing. Just like millions of people erupted in celebration in the streets of Philadelphia during the Superbowl parade, the children of Israel erupted in Praise in Exodus 15:1-21. The song sang by Philadelphia fans and players was "We Are The Champion," the song sang by Israel was "The Lord has triumphed gloriously."
In the Lord's song, credit is given to God as the source of strength and victory. He is the one by His right hand that crushed the horse and rider under the sea. "Who Is like the Lord, glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders." It is His unfailing love and His might that leads and guides His people to safety.
We no longer have to wait until we see victory to celebrate for we are already victorious. Even when things look bleak and unpromising we are to celebrate. Faith is the key that releases power and favor that breaks up the fallow ground. Faith is the evidence of things not yet seen. One must already see spiritually that they are victorious before they will see it witnessed naturally.
Life in Christ is a non-stop Holy Spirit Victory Party. It all depends on whether we look through the lens of fear or faith, defeat or victory.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).”
How Quick They Turn
The first part of Exodus 15 the children of Israel were celebrating through dance and song, the second part they are complaining.
Just as excited as Eagles fans are after winning the Superbowl if they start losing in the coming season the fans will quickly turn. That is how people are they celebrate when things go there way and complain when they do not.
The children of Israel had gone three days without finding water, when they finally found some at Marah, it was too bitter to drink. Instead of turning to God to do a miracle they complained to Moses.
Every need that God allows to go unmet is an opportunity to bring forth a miracle through faith.
Moses unlike the children of Israel who complained, prayed to God, and God told him to take a piece of wood, throw it into the water and you will be able to drink.
When bitterness is within someone they can celebrate only so long before they begin complaining again. Bitterness is a virus that you can only get healed from through the wooden cross. Only by applying the blood, offering forgiveness, can it be uprooted and pulled out of your heart.
You only know if you are delivered from bitterness when you are tested. If the person that wronged you comes near you or a thought of them comes to your mind and you choose to pray for them in all sincerity rather than dwell on negativity then you are free.
Prayer turns people and situations over to God who now steps in and does what only He can. When you surrender your bitterness to God the consequences of sin gets lifted and you are healed and delivered. God now leads you away from your place of want into a place of plenty.
Sunday February 18th
You know it’s not that easy to do something really big if you haven’t had some time to practice first. That’s why Moses, before he parted the waters of the Red Sea, used to practice separating smaller things, like his laundry!
So now the plagues and the Passover have ended, the Exodus has started, and God is about to do one more fantastic miracle to insure the deliverance of His people:
Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Tell the sons of Israel to turn back and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you shall camp in front of Baal-zephon, opposite it, by the sea. 3 For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, ‘They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ 4 Thus I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.
Keep in mind that the unfolding of the plagues and the continual hardening of Pharaoh’s heart were all part of a bigger picture, where God is proclaiming to Pharaoh and all of Egypt who the real sovereign power in the universe is. And this confrontation by the sea is another example.
5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” 6 So he made his chariot ready and took his people with him; 7 and he took six hundred select chariots, and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly. 9 Then the Egyptians chased after them with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.
In order to get the full effect of what is about to unfold, you have to recognize the fact that the Israelites we basically on foot, with no real army, and their group included women and children, along with herds of animals.
Pharaoh, on the other hand, had an army with over 600 chariots. This was an elite fighting force. Each Egyptian chariot carried three men, so there are at least 1800 highly trained soldiers coming after the fleeing Hebrews. This is like the original “David versus Goliath” battle! And the people of Israel quickly recognized how outmanned they were. And they were none too happy with Moses about this!
10 As Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”
How’s that for gratitude? Thanks a lot for freeing us from slavery Moses! Now we get to die out here in the desert!
Of course this will become a constant pattern with them – grumbling and complaining against Moses and against God.
But Moses isn’t flustered by their accusations. By now, he has learned to fully trust in God, no matter what the circumstances look like:
13 But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.”
And God adds His “AMEN” to Moses’ exhortation:
15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. 16 As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land. 17 As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen.”
To paraphrase God – “Let’s DO this thing! Go big or go home!”
And in addition to His words, God gives them a visible sign:
19 The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus the one did not come near the other all night.
God provides a temporary buffer zone between the Hebrews and the Egyptians. The Angel of God is identified as the one who is going to be with them.
For Example, look at Exodus 23:20
“Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.”
So while the angel is providing cloud cover, Moses obeys God’s command by stretching out his hand, with his staff, towards the water. And of course God moves miraculously:
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. 22 The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
The fact that God uses the wind to accomplish His purpose doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a supernatural event. The wind had to hold the waters back while the people walked about ten miles through the Red Sea to safety. The path was reportedly about a half mile wide and is at an area where there is a slope down to the bottom of the Red Sea and then back up to the other side. On either side of this path are the depths of about 3000-5000 feet. Quite a bit of heavenly power was needed to hold those walls of water on both sides of the escape route.
Then God sent it back again with enough force to destroy Pharaoh’s army – which is what happens next:
23 Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea. 24 At the morning watch, the Lord looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion. 25 He caused their chariot wheels to swerve, and He made them drive with difficulty; so the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from Israel, for the Lord is fighting for them against the Egyptians.”
26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even Pharaoh’s entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained. 29 But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
We are told that by “the morning watch” all of the Israelites were safely across the dry sea and the Egyptians were in the middle of trying to catch them by crossing the safe dry ground. The morning watch was from 2:00 A. M. to 6:00 a.m. so it was likely still dark, plus the Lord threw the Egyptian army into confusion and made their chariots drive crooked and get stuck in the mud. Even the Egyptian soldiers recognized that God was fighting them!
And that was right before they all drowned!
And certainly the people of Israel realized that God’s miraculous power had just saved them again:
30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 When Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.
So they feared God with a reverent fear and believed in Moses as their true leader and God’s servant. At least at this point in time, Israel as a nation is professing faith and trust in God and His appointed leaders.
Of course we know that later, in the wilderness, they will apostatize, grumble, complain, and make themselves a golden calf as an idol to worship!
But on that particular day, things were good between them and God. Why? Because He had just met their needs.
So what does this mean to us, the church? Well, for one thing, we are specifically told that we should avoid the example of the Israelites who praised God one day and then complained about Him the next day.
Check out what Paul said about them in 1 Corinthians 10:1:6. This is a section that in the NASB has a heading over it that says: Avoid Israel’s Mistakes“For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.”
And now look at Hebrews 3:5-17
Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.
7 Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today if you hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
9 Where your fathers tried Me by testing Me,
And saw My works for forty years.
10 “Therefore I was angry with this generation,
And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart,
And they did not know My ways’;
11 As I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.’”
12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, 15 while it is said,
“Today if you hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”
16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?
So we can clearly see how the Israelites blew it in the wilderness, and that we are told to NOT be like them.
But let’s give them a little bit of credit today for the things that they DID do right and how we CAN be like them in some positive ways.
First of all, they were facing a situation that can best be described by the phrase – “Between a rock and a hard place.”
On the one side they were pressed against the Red Sea, which at that moment was deep and unpassable. On the other side they had Pharaoh and the Egyptian army, led by 600 chariots, chasing them down with the intent of killing them, or at best, putting them back into slavery.
That’s a bit like how Paul describes the challenges of our Christian walk in 2 Corinthians 4:8“we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing”
Does that describe some of the things you’ve faced in your life? “Afflicted in every way”? “Perplexed”?
Do you think that the Israelites were perplexed about why God had led them to this place? Listen to this commentary:
Instead of sending Israel directly to the promise land, God sent them toward the Red Sea. To their left and right is nothing but desert sand and impassable rocks. At their front is the depth of the Red Sea. They are surrounded by problems with Pharaoh on their back and they have little time to think and find the solution for their escape.
Did you ever try to follow God with your whole heart but you end up somewhere that you hadn’t planned to go, wondering how you got there and why in the world would God have let this happen?
But notice that Paul says we are not crushed by our circumstances. We are not in despair even though we don’t see the way out yet!
The Christian walk isn’t a smooth path where we never find ourselves in difficult or confusing situations. Following Jesus simply means that when I find myself in those situations I truly trust and believe that He knows where I am and how to get me out of there. He has a plan and a purpose for my life – and sometimes His plan involves allowing me to face challenges. And He is going to bring something good out of each challenge, because He has promised to work ALL things together for my god!
Most of you have probably heard the famous hymn ‘Just As I Am’. That song was written by Charlotte Elliott, who at one time had been very bitter towards God about the circumstances in her life. Charlotte had been an invalid and she deeply resented the limits that her handicap placed on her activities. In a very emotional outburst on one occasion, she expressed her feelings of frustration to a minister who was visiting her. He listened and was touched by her distress, but he insisted that her problems should not keep her from turning her life over to God, to come to Him just as she was, even with all her bitterness and anger. She initially resented what seemed to be an almost uncaring attitude on his part, but God spoke to her through that man, and she decided to commit her life fully to the Lord, despite her doubts and frustrations. Then while she was alone one night, Charlotte wrote about her spiritual journey in that song. She poured out her feelings to God with words like - Just as I am, though tossed about––With many a conflict, many a doubt,––Fighting’s and fears within, without,––O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Charlotte learned something crucial about her life - that circumstances and situations cannot be allowed to keep us from coming to Jesus. When we are confused, frightened, or in pain, we must not allow questions and doubts to keep us from the very one who has all of the answers.
Come to Jesus – Beautiful Jesus!
Sunday February 11th
Dedicated to God’s Service
It’s amazing the stories that 911 operators can tell.
One operator got a call and said “911, what’s your emergency?”
The voice on the other end said, “My wife is going into labor. I think she’s about to have the baby!”
The 911 operator asked “Is this her firstborn child?”
And the answer came back, “Uh, no, this is her husband!”
As we saw last week, the firstborn children of Egypt were hit by the final plague, but the firstborn children of Israel were spared. Now in chapter 13, God has something to say to about these firstborn sons of Israel.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.”
The children of Israel have finally been set free. They are now moving forward out of Egypt towards the Promised Land. It was the death of their firstborn sons that brought Pharaoh and the people of Egypt to their knees.
The firstborn sons of Israel had their lives spared and now the Lord has told Moses to have all of the firstborn dedicated to His service.
In verses 3-10 God reestablishes the Feast of Unleavened bread and then in verses 11-12 God returns His focus to the firstborn:
“Now when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you, 12 you shall devote to the Lord the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the Lord.
And in verses 14-15 God tells Moses that they should explain this plan for dedicating the firstborn to all of their children for generations to come:
14 And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ then you shall say to him, ‘With a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 It came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the Lord killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the Lord the males (animals), the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.’
In fact this dedication of the firstborn was so important to God that He wanted the people to carry a reminder of it on their hands and their foreheads:
16 So it shall serve as a sign on your hand and as phylacteries on your forehead, for with a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”
You might notice that very devout Orthodox Jews actually still wear a small box on their foreheads and wrists in fulfillment of this command.
The reality is this - that the people of Israel had been delivered from Egypt but deliverance was just the beginning of what God was planning to do in their lives. And the next stage of their journey was learning to dedicate themselves to the service of the Lord.
If we are going to move forward into the promises of God we need to be willing to dedicate our entire lives to His service. Our salvation is not a trophy to be put on our shelf, And God isn’t just a genie who just shows up whenever we pray in order to fulfill our wishes.
We are here on this earth to serve Him – not the other way around!
Romans 12:1 says, "considering all God has done, we offer our lives as a living sacrifice.....which is our reasonable service."
Of course there is no distinction in Christ between first born, second born, and third born children. We must all be born again at some point and dedicate our lives to God.
The fact that God wanted them to put a reminder on their foreheads and hands showed that He wanted to be first in their thoughts and in their deeds.
The forehead represents our thinking and the hand represents our doing.
Ask yourself this - Is God the first thought on your mind? Are you trying to please God in all that you do?
Don’t get me wrong.
God wasn’t trying to rain on their parade.
This was a time for the Israelites to celebrate the great and mighty hand of God and for this celebration to be passed on to the generations that would follow.
God is not a party-pooper!
God loves a good party! In fact God is the author of celebrations. He wants His people to have fun and to remember all that He has done for them. When God's people gather together it should be a time of celebration, full of passion and excitement because of the goodness of the Lord in our lives.
If we allow the Holy Spirit to direct our gatherings He will insure that they are full of passion. Our services should be celebrations of praise, where people gather together and experience the amazing feeling of being in His presence and witnessing His power.
God wants His children to live a celebratory life where we are constantly walking in joy and where people encounter God's presence simply by being near us.
However, that doesn’t mean that every moment of the journey is going to be easy, because sometimes God is going to get us where we need to go, but in a round-about way
Let’s look at Exodus 13:17-18
Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” 18 Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt.
Was there an easier way to get to the Promised Land? Yes, there certainly was. So why didn’t God just send the people in that direction? Because they weren’t ready to face the Philistines yet, and God knew that. When they were finally ready, He would send them to face their enemies, but they had some training to go through first.
Do you ever feel like you’re going in circles spiritually or seemingly taking the long way to get somewhere?
The reason why God sometimes doesn’t just push the pedal down on the accelerator of our lives is that He knows where we’re at and what we can handle at any given moment.
We’re often in a rush to get from Point A to Point B, but if we really knew what was coming up ahead, maybe we would slow down and let God determine the timetable.
Just because nothing seems to be getting done at any given moment doesn’t mean God isn’t working in our lives. You see, God actually cares more about our inner growth than our outward circumstances. Because, if things on the inside aren't right we’re most likely going to mess up everything on the outside.
God had the children of Israel take the roundabout way so that they could avoid facing circumstances that they weren’t ready for, circumstances that would cause them to want to run back to Egypt.
How many of you know that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle?
He actually wants to increase our faith to the point where we can handle anything.
How many people, when we‘ve had about enough of someone’s issues, we might say, "you’re getting on my last nerve”?
The fact is, it’s when we have no last nerve left that we are finally ready for the Promised Land.
So think about this - how did millions of people leave Egypt without a plan for which direction to go?
Look at verses 21-22
The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
That’s how they knew where to go. God led them with a cloud during the day and with a pillar of fire by night.
God will always show us which path to go on if we acknowledge His leading. He might be taking us on the roundabout way, but if we trust Him then we will simply follow, knowing that He sees and knows all things, so His direction is always the best path for our lives.
There’s an interesting exclamation point on all of this if we go back and look at verse 19:
Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you.”
This is a fulfillment of something that happened way back in Genesis 50:24-26, long before Moses was even born:
Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.” 26 So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.
Ask yourself this – are you willing to trust God to keep His promises to you, even if you never see them fulfilled in your lifetime?
That’s what Joseph was saying – “I might die here in Egypt, but one day I believe you’ll carry my bones to the Promised Land, because God will not leave me in this captive land forever!”
So let’s sum this chapter up:
God should be first in our lives.
He should be first in our thoughts and first in our actions.
He should be first in our days and first in our nights.
He should be first if we’re taking the direct route and first if we are going the roundabout way.
He should be first in our lives and first, like Joseph, even at the moment of our death.
Are you ready to make God first in your life?
Sunday February 4th
I don’t know if any of you have even noticed, but we started using gluten-free matzo a while back for communion, in case anyone in the congregation is allergic to gluten. They actually make all kinds and flavors of matzo. They have plain, whole wheat, gluten free, salted, unsalted, garlic flavored, and a new kind of bran and fiber matzo, fortified with Metamucil. The slogan for that brand of matzo is "Let My People Go".
And after many chapters and many plagues, it’s finally time for Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go!
Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.
The first month of the Hebrew year was to be Abib, which falls around March and April. This verse seems to show that God was instituting a new religious calendar at that time, with the Exodus as its starting point. So, for example, in 2018 Passover will begin on Friday, March 30 and it will end on Saturday, April 7.
Now starting in verse 3 God is going to give Moses the instructions for the first Passover:
3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. 4 Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.7 Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. 10 And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire.11 Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the Lord’s Passover.
The Passover observance is the oldest of all of the Jewish festivals and it is celebrated starting at twilight on the fourteenth day of that first month of Abib and then continuing for the next seven days.
The festival involved a sacrifice and a meal. The sacrifice had to be a lamb without any spot or blemish. This would also be true for all of the sacrifices of Israel in the tabernacle and the temple, as we saw in the Book of Leviticus. The idea here was to teach the people the idea of substitutionary death—the lamb was dying instead of their firstborn sons. Jesus’ death was being foreshadowed by the Passover lamb, which is why He is called the Lamb of God in John 1:29 and 36.
Also, look at 1st Peter 1:18-19
“knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”
The Passover meal had a lot of symbolism, including the fact that it was to be eaten quickly and with their sandals on, as a reminder that they were about to be set free. The meat of the lamb was accompanied by unleavened bread, also a sign of hurriedness as well as an absence of sin. The bitter herbs they ate were to recall the bitter suffering of slavery that they had experienced in Egypt.
Notice also that they were to cover their doorposts with the lamb’s blood. Now God explains to Moses why this is so crucial:
12 For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
There are a couple of very significant elements to this final plague. One is that it targeted only the firstborn, which makes a difference because in those cultures all of the hopes and dreams of each family were invested in that firstborn son, who had the right of inheritance. This was clearly a planned act by God. As one commentary put it “no epidemic or accident could have been so selective”.
Secondly, God says that He is pouring out His judgment “on all the gods of Egypt”. The death of the firstborn included their animals too, many of which were considered sacred animals. Furthermore, the inability of Egypt’s gods to protect the people who worshipped them was going to be very clearly demonstrated by this plague.
Now God will establish this as a permanent festival:
14 ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you. 17 You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.19 Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land.20 You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.’”
Again we see this emphasis on removing all yeast (or leaven) which was regarded as a symbol of sin or corruption. No Israelite sacrifice was ever allowed to contain any leaven. And neither did Jesus’ sacrifice!
In verses 21 through 27 Moses simply repeats to the people of Israel everything that God just told him to say.
(21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. 22 You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.
23 For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you. 24 And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. 25 When you enter the land which the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. 26 And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’27 you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’” And the people bowed low and worshiped.)
And verse 28 tells us that they were obedient:
28 Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.
And starting in verse 29 the plague begins:
29 Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle. 30 Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead. 31 Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the Lord, as you have said. 32 Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.”
Do you remember how Pharaoh kept trying to bargain with Moses to settle for less than what God was asking for?
Well, he’s not bargaining anymore! He just wants these Hebrews GONE – men, women, children, flocks, herds, the whole bunch of them!
And the Egyptian people felt the same way as Pharaoh did:
33 The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, “We will all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders.
But God wasn’t finished what He wanted to accomplish:
35 Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; 36 and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
God wasn’t going to let His children leave Egypt empty-handed, especially since they had slaved so hard serving the Egyptians. They may not have received any wages during their time as slaves, but they were going to get some long-overdue silver and gold on their way out!
Now the journey begins:
37 Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock. 39 They baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into cakes of unleavened bread. For it had not become leavened, since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.
Of course we know now that this journey to the Promised Land was going to take a whole lot longer than they anticipated, but they begin by traveling from Rameses to Succoth, which was somewhere in the eastern Delta of the Nile. And there are hundreds of thousands of them.
How did they grow into such a large people group? One reason was that they had been in Egypt for many generations:
40 Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. 41 And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.
This is pretty close to what God had foretold to Abraham in Genesis 15:13
God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.
Now there are just a few more instructions about the Passover regulations, focusing on the restriction of the ceremony to the Hebrew people only, because as verse 38 mentions, there were a few non-Israelites leaving Egypt with the Hebrews.
42 It is a night to be observed for the Lord for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the Lord, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations.
43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner is to eat of it; 44 but every man’s slave purchased with money, after you have circumcised him, then he may eat of it. 45 A sojourner or a hired servant shall not eat of it. 46 It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it. 47 All the congregation of Israel are to celebrate this. 48 But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it. 49 The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you.”
50 Then all the sons of Israel did so; they did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that same day the Lord brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.
Besides excluding outsiders, the other significant instruction in these verses is that none of the bones of the animals were allowed to be broken.
Just like the Passover lamb, none of the bones of Jesus were broken at His crucifixion.
Look at John 19:31-36
Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; 33 but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. 36 For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, “Not a bone of Him shall be broken.”
So does any of this Passover stuff have anything to do with us as followers of Jesus today?
I think that it clearly does.
Look at 1st Corinthians 5:7-8
Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Do you want to see the clear connection between Jesus’ death and the feast of Passover? Look at Luke 22:1-2
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching. 2 The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people.
Now skip down to verse 7:
7 Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 And Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, so that we may eat it.” 9 They said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare it?” 10 And He said to them, “When you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters. 11 And you shall say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ 12 And he will show you a large, furnished upper room; prepare it there.” 13 And they left and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
14 When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. 15 And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
Jesus Christ is our Passover lamb. His sacrifice cleansed us from all of the old “leaven” or sin in our lives. We celebrate our Passover every time that we take communion, like we did this morning.
Just like the people of Israel, we have been delivered from slavery to our old way of life.
Our Egypt might have been drugs, or it might have been alcohol. Maybe it was anger, jealousy, selfishness, or pride. Maybe we were in bondage to gambling or pornography – but not anymore!
Jesus came to earth to fulfill the role of the final Passover lamb. Everything that God was doing in Exodus was a prelude to what was going to happen when Jesus’ blood was shed to cover the door of our houses, our lives, to spare us from judgment and lead us to freedom.