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?