Category: moses (Page 1 of 2)

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 9

Sermon

Pentecost 18A
Sunday October 16, 2011.
Ocean Forest

Freed to Follow



There are only a few people, senior to me in my life, with whom I have been able to share the kind of close intimacy that can handle personal challenge and experience true friendship at this deep kind of level that the Lord and Moses share in our text.

I counted up the people: there are about 8 people with from whom I will willingly take personal challenge and trust they are not out to get me or shame me and with whom I can dialogue and challenge and argue without threatening our continued relationship. I consider myself very blessed to have these people in my life. I need them and they need me.

I wonder whether we all want someone in our life that is ahead of us in experience or wisdom with whom we can really share what we really want, what we really value. How good is it to have at least one person in your life with whom you can take the risk of letting them see who you really are and what you really hope for and what your weaknesses are? How good is it to have at least one person with whom you can dice – challenge each other’s views, share concerns about each others dodgy behaviour at times, make comment on what is going wrong hen needed?

I find this little scene between the Lord and Moses quite inspiring. It shows me just what kind of relationship is possible between a holy and almighty and perfect God, and a person who knows his place but reaches out for intimacy and experience with the Lord. it shows me that the Lord is a friend to me first and a judge of me second. it shows me the goal of my life – to relate to the Lord as he relates to me – a very good friend who will not be a yes man, but a real man.


In this Exodus journey the relationship between the Lord and his chosen but flawed man, Moses, has been deepening. They have had their great moments of pain, their great moments of victory and joy, their great moments of trust and doubt, or perfection and total inability on Moses’ part, and their relationship has grown through it.


The relationship has grown so much that, as one of people said on Wednesday night, Moses can tell God what to do!
The people are now ready to leave Mt Sinai after their great sin against the Lord. Moses shows his huge heart for this dodgy community of people by interceding for them before God. He speaks so openly, honestly and with great integrity. There are few issues Moses needs to speak with his Lord about:


1. Moses’ continued authority and place as the Lord’s leader and who will be his helper, since Aaron has really failed as a leader Moses can trust:

12 Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favour with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you.”

In other words: Lord, give me a faithful and capable lieutenant to help me fulfil my calling from you and teach me how to do this calling.

2. The Lord’s continued commitment to his promise and plan

Remember that this nation is your people.”
“If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

Simply: ‘Lord, stay the course for us. Don’t leave us’.


3. And that is really the BIG issue in this moment of the journey that Moses raises – the Lord’s continued presence. That is what is at stake after the great “fall” of the Golden Calf. Moses needs to tell his Lord that the Lord needs to remain present and true to his plan and promise – lest all is lost.


The response is instant. The request from Moses, the man to whom the Lord could talk face to face, as a friend talks a friend is heard and granted quickly.

14 The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
“I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

What a great gift. The Lord knows Moses by his name. Just as the Lord took the risk of giving Moses his own personal name way back when this all started, so Moses is now completely known by the Lord – by his personal name. The Lord knows Moses’ character, weaknesses, heart for people, humility and integrity. Moses trusts God’s commitment, loyalty, goodness and power to see this thing through together.

And yet, Moses has the trust and the desire to reach out to the Lord for more. Moses wants what no other person has asked for so directly. He wants an experience of the Lord at very close range. “Show me your glory” he boldly and plainly asks the Lord.

What a prayer! What a trust! This could actually kill him. Moses has seen the awesome power of the Lord at work. he has seen people be overwhelmed by the presence of the Lord, and this has been in a veiled way – in a misty, unclear, hidden cloud – the Shekinah – the “glory cloud”. Moses trusts the Lord completely and truly speaks with the Lord as a good friend.

Moses is asking for clarity. No cloud, no mist, full sight of the holy, direct connection with the Lord in all his fullness.


The Lord knows this would kill Moses.

19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”


21 Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

The Lord is mighty and holy and pure and perfect and Moses is not. In a great act of kindness the Lord again takes a huge risk in showing Moses more than any other man alive has ever seen or known of the Lord. But because of Moses’ humanity, the Lord has to protect Moses when the moment is granted. Moses can only handle so much.

There is a deep humility here on Moses part. He is not on some glory hunt for some egocentric reason so he can say he is the most spiritual man alive. He is direct, honest and thankful to receive whatever the Lord determines because the Lord knows best. he wants to know the Lord and share in his character because he knows that is life and the future and the only hope he and his people have.

Friend, there is a vision of hat is possible here for you. There is an intimacy and friendship with the God of all creation in the offering here. The Lord went one even better than Moses when he himself entered into the human domain and took all unholiness, weakness, ignorance and evil into himself in that wretched man on a cross, Jesus of Nazareth, and dealt with it there and then, once for all time.

Jesus, the Lord of all things, the name above all names and the Saviour of all now offers you a great privilege – to be able to call this might God a name that is offensive to some because of the intimacy is seeks – ”Abba”, or “Papa”.

Because of what the Lord has done in calling us into this Christian church, this holy nation, this kingdom of priests for the world, we as baptised and loved children of God our heavenly Father may call God Abba, Papa. That is stunning.

Jesus called the Lord by this intimate name, EVEN IN THE PRAYER HE GAVE US TO PRAY – THE Lord’s Prayer….Our Farther….. it begins. Jesus gives us sinners permission to use this name.

Paul directs Christians to ponder this great gift and do it when he says;

15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

The problem we have with intimacy is that it is risky for human beings. Intimacy with anyone on any level takes risk – the risk of being hurt, rejected, dismissed or misunderstood. that is how it is with human beings. But we are caught then, because we need intimacy at various levels to be fully alive and fully functioning follower of Jesus Christ and to be fully human – to enjoy life, to fulfil our calling, to experience the good stuff in this life and to have hope and courage and love and faith and hope.


What shall we do; keep self contained, not risk friendship, not seek the Lord simply but boldly like Moses, not show our hand lest it get chopped off by some unthinking or even hurtful person? The more we do this the less we can experience the glory of God – in the word, in creation, in people in life itself.


But what if we throw caution to the wind more often and truly reach out the Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit as we talk to the Lord as a trusted friend talks to a trusted friend?


What if we reached out to each other more often in humility and simple honesty and invested ourselves in people around more and more, even taking a hit or two from time to time for the sake of experiencing more of God’s marvellous plan for our life and his hope for our future in him?


Is the Lord calling you in the Exodus journey to come out of the closet and seek him and others in ways you have not yet learned.


Is this a prompt to ask the Spirit to help you identify why your scared of and what is holding you back from giving yourself more fully to him and others – despite the risks?


Is this a call to inspire you – inspire you to speak with the Lord and trusted Christian friends, face to face, as friend speaks to a friend?


Surely we all have to pray that prayer of Moses, Lord, teach me your ways so I may know and continue to find favour, blessing and life in you” Amen



Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 9

BETWEEN THE TEXTS



Week 9


• As Moses comes down from the mountain and his extended time with the Lord, receiving all the stipulations of this new covenant that the Lord had made and the people had agreed to, he is as angry as the Lord is as he sights the idol worshippers engaging in their “play” before the altar and the golden calf. Moses takes those God-carved stoned tablets and throws them at the idol and then exacts the Lord’s judgement on this sin.


• Moses never denies the sin and its consequences, and yet he shows his character by seeking to intercede for these wayward people before the Lord. In Exod 32:30-35, Moses says, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin”. Moses goes even so far as to offer his own life in their place when he says that if the Lord can not forgive this great sin, then the Lord should erase Moses’ name from the book of life! Surely here we see Moses as a precursor to Jesus Christ who would not only make atonement for Israel’s sin, but all sin of all time by the losing of his own life in humanity’s place.


• In Exod 33:1ff the Lord then commands the people to get moving toward the land he promised them. This is the beginning of the next stage of this long journey.


• Then we get this extraordinary description of how Moses and the Lord would “meet” in this “tent of meeting” and how Moses would then meet with the people in his amazing role of prophet, priest and king in this community. (read 33:7-11).


• Whenever Moses was seen heading out to the tent (some way out of the camp), people would rise and stand at the entrance to their own tent. When Moses went into the tent and the glory cloud then descended on the tent (and Moses). Those needing to seek the Lord/Moses on an issue would approach the tent. Somehow their need was communicated to Moses (and Joshua, his aid) and Moses would then speak the word of the Lord on the issue to people…. What a change from the lack of respect for the Lord and Aaron when the golden calf episode was in full swing!


• The we get this beautiful line, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend”. What a description of intimacy and trust between a holy God and a flawed human being!


• This theme of trust and intimacy is then filled out a little more as we get this very unique description of a conversation between “friends” and the granting of a life-long goal – Moses asks to “see/experience the glory of the Lord…..

WEEK 9 Exodus 33:12-23 (TNIV)


Moses and the glory of the Lord ( numbers relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)


1 2 3 12 Moses said to the LORD 4, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favour with me.’ 5 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”


14 The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 6


15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” 7


17 And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” 8


18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” 9 10


19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” 11

21 Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” 12

THOUGHTS


1. This whole chapter is really about the continued presence of the Lord with his sinful people. They have been created as a nation, called as a nation, and given a treaty or covenant where the Lord commits himself to them, and they have “fallen”. This is kind a repeat of creation and fall in Genesis 1-3.


2. After this great sin against the Lord, and the ensuing judgement on it, will the Lord still be present with his people? That’s the question being tackled here.


3. God has said that he will not go with his people directly now. He will send his angel ahead, and now here, his “Presence” with them. The reason God himself will not go with them is because the Lord may “consume” or “exterminate” them as they keep on sinning against him! (see 33:5 and 34:14)


4. Since the Lord and Moses speak to each other as close friends, Moses now has this very close conversation, almost as an equal to the Lord) about his continued presence with them. Moses seems to be looking for some co-leaders to get to the promised and then to take it by force. He seems to be thinking ahead and counting the cost of what lies ahead. He will need 2IC’s to do fulfil his calling.


5. Again, Moses speaks to the Lord as a trusted friend would. He seems to be keeping the Lord accountable to his previous promises and actions in creating this nation and promising this land and future.


6. The Lord responds with grace and reassurance. he will be present in the journey ahead.


7. Moses presses the point and seems to be looking for more assurance as he speaks the truth; If the Lord does no go with them all is lost – for three reasons – If the Lord does not stay present then Moses will have no authority to lead, the people we will have no authority to fulfil their calling to be his holy nation of priests bringing blessing the all nations and Israel will be no more – just like every other nation.


8. What a response from the Lord. He will stay present on the journey. He will stay with this wayward people because Moses is faithful and his close friend whom “the Lord knows by name”. The Lord gave this man Moses his own personal name (YAHWEH) way back when this all started and now the Lord knows Moses’ name. This is a witness to the intimacy and trust that can exist between a human being and a holy God.


9. Moses asks a his friend (the Lord) to give him an experience of trust and intimacy like never before! He asks to Lord to “show him his glory”. Moses has been in this glory cloud environment and yet in the mist he cannot see. God clouds himself to protect the human being from seeing and experiencing what would be too much to handle. The Lord’s full presence where there is no cloud or barrier is too much for sinful humanity. But Moses trusts the Lord as a friend and seeks a deeper friendship and sharing of trust.


10. Amazingly, the Lord again says, Yes”; and maybe with a joy! The Lord after all has demonstrated by all that he has done from creation to exodus that he delights in human beings and wants to be live with them at close range.


11. This sin reality of a human being still means that the relationship between the Lord and his creation cannot be full – even for Moses.


12. It would be too much even for this friend of the Lord. Moses, to see God fully. So in another act of kindness for his friend, the Lord sets up this incredible experience in a mitigated/limited way – not out of holding back but from the goal of continuing the relationship of trust and intimacy they share. The Lord has to protect Moses so he does not get overwhelmed.

REFLECTIONS


1. With the Lord’s show of continued presence and promise we are set again for a renewal of the Covenant which had been given and broken at Mt Sinai. This happens in Chapter 34….. This journey will continue and God’s faithfulness to his promises will keep this people being a people who can fulfil their calling.


2. As Moses said, if the Lord withdrew his presence from him or the people, all would be lost. Same with us. However, as Moses also said, if the Lord stays with us in grace and mercy and power, then we have authority to live out our calling and our vocations and be the holy/set apart for a special purpose people – a people to bring God’s life and blessing in Jesus Christ to everyone we know.


3. What about this intercession of Moses? What a picture this is to inspire us to pray – to pray to the Lord of the universe, who just happens to be for us a heavenly Father who loves us and knows our name! At our baptism he gave us his name (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and he received us and our name. We are friends! We need to believe this and act like this in our praying life.


4. Moses gives us a vision of prayer not as a duty or a impersonal thing but a conversation between friends where we can ask for anything and speak about anything – our own fears, needs, hopes and trust the Lord’s listening ears. Jesus of course takes it up a notch when he spends all night in prayer with his Father and gives us his own prayer to pray with him and for each other – the Lord’s Prayer.


5. This is a vision of what is possible between you and the Lord Jesus and your heavenly Father. Moses had to take risks and ask. he had to go into that tent and talk. He had to decide to do that. So do we. We can seek this kind of intimacy withy our heavenly Father who allows us flawed people to even call him “Abba” or “Papa” (see Romans 8:15).



Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 8

Sermon, Pentecost 17A
Sunday October 9, 2011.
Ocean Forest

Freed to Follow

We are in two places at once this morning. We are witness to the extended meeting of the Lord with Moses on the top of the mountain and also down in the valley with Aaron and the people.

In the one place there is intimacy between a human being and the Lord as the Lord speaks, Moses speaks and the foundation for a new nation of holy people called to be priests. In the other place there is an absence of the Lord’s presence and word which leads to a lot of trouble.

If one thing is on show here it is the very nature of our human condition and how we can at our very best moments also be at our worst. God has every right to judge this duplicity of allegiance and weak commitment to him – especially after all that he has done and still does for us. In this text he actually decides to do just that – judge his people and destroy them!

Moses, the great mediator intervenes. He intercedes for the people and amazingly God “repents” of his will to destroy the people.

Sin is serious and it is always related to the golden calf – the things of stone, wood and metal we replace God with in our hearts because when we turn away from trusting that he is present, caring or capable.

Today we ponder our idolatrous heart, God’s judgement on this rejection of him, Jesus, the One who intercedes for us and how we get to live in God’s continued grace and love as his priesthood of all believers now!

We begin in the valley with God’s people under the leadership of their 2IC, Aaron. Moses is up on the mountain wit the Lord again. He has been going up and down this mountain for a while now. It has not just been him either.

There was a great moment of the Lord’s faithfulness and his affirmation of his commitment to his people happens before our text. Moses, Aaron and his two sons (Nadab and Abihu) and the 70 Elders of the community ascended with Moses to the summit. These people “saw God” (24:10). The Lord’s feet were resting on something like a pavement of pure sapphire stone……They ate and drank together with the Lord. What a moment!

As well as this, Moses and his entourage are instructed to read the “Book of the Covenant” (The treaty the Lord made earlier) to the people. Animals are slaughtered in a great show of thanksgiving and affirmation to the Lord’s covenant. The people say en mass, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey” (Ex 24:7). Everything looks sweet!

But, we know what is coming. Isn’t it always the way that with our best moments come with our worst! Israel’s worst moment in this desert journey with the Lord is about to happen. It will always be a reminder that sin will always be a problem to be watched carefully. It will always be a reminder that the human heart has its dark side and is capable of idolatry – trusting anything and anyone other then the Lord who has created and saved us and who loves us for our well being and our future.

The seed of idolatry seems to be a lack of tangible presence of God in people’s lives. The beginning of trouble is tied up with Moses being absent a long time. Moses is up on the mountain in an extended meeting of great closeness with the Lord. He is the mediator, priest, shepherd and representative of the Lord among this people and when there is no tangible presence of the Lord (through Moses), the human heart wanders away.

I wonder whether this is why the Lord graced us with those magnificent tangible signs of is presence – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; even the whole ancient liturgy or pattern of worship of the Church? Did he know that unless we could see him, taste him, feel him, hear him in these very physical, concrete signs of his very presence, we would wonder off from him completely?

Aaron does not fare well in the dark episode. In verse 1 he may as well be on a rugby pitch! He is the last man on the Try line facing a hostile group of people pushing him backwards. He is surrounded by a scrum of very demanding people. The Hebrew language is strong. This is a full-on demand, and it is many against one. Aaron the leader is under great pressure.

“Make gods for us, Aaron”, they demand. They, like us, need visible signs that the Lord is still with us as we journey on from day to day in this life. The gods they want Aaron to make are that – a symbol or sign of the gods being on our side – Lady Luck, or “The Universe” or “Mother Nature”, or “Yin and Yang”, the gods of reincarnation, the planets are lining up for us……

Aaron makes the error (although understandable) of caving in to the demand for a sign of divine presence and blessing. He tells them to bring their things of gold to him (things the Lord gave them as they fled Egypt!) and he himself fashions either a wooden calf overlayed with gold or a pure gold calf. The calf is a universal sign of fertility and prosperity of the gods in these ancient people’s culture.

The people show their idolatrous heart when they make the bold declaration, in verse 4, “These are the gods, O Israel, who bought you out of Egypt!” What a total rejection of all that has happened so far on the journey of faith!

This is like one of us simply wiping out all memory of God’s speaking, doing and blessing for us in our life so far and just going head long into what ever turns us on and helps us believe that we will be fine without any spiritual connection to the Creator of all things.

Aaron can see that this is getting out of hand. He does try to salvage the situation somewhat by adding to the calf, an altar – not to the calf but to the Lord. He also calls a feast day the next day – not to the calf, but to the Lord (v5-6).

It does not work. In the Hebrew, it literally says, “The people rose early next morning and “came out to play”! They did not come out to play ring-a-ring-a-rosy, or duck-duck-goose! They came out to engage in full-on booze, substance abuse, sex and probably worse. Idolatry and immorality always go together. One leads to and feeds the other.

Back up on the quiet mountain Someone is very aware of what is happening below. God breaks off the business of giving Moses the gifts of the Covenant relationship he has been imparting to Moses.

God sums up the situation when he says that the people are perverse; God recounts word for word (with 32:1-6) the nature of their sin. It is as if every word of the people has sunk into the divine heart and stabbed it. And so, God tells Moses that “they have cast for themselves an image of a calf” and that they have “worshiped it and sacrificed to it” (v. 8). It is as if God has been sitting on the sidelines in amazement watching the performance of the heedless people.

This turning away by the people has broken the divine heart. The Lord reaches a conclusion about the people. They are a “stiff-necked” people, a stubborn people, people who really are not worthy of the love God has showered up on them.

The Lord decides to destroy them. Verse 10 is interesting because it tells us that God wants Moses to go down to the people for two reasons–to see for himself exactly what has happened but also to leave God alone. God wants to be alone when the terrible judgment is executed. Like some military General sitting in some technical nerve centre controlling satellites and a “targeted hit” on some town or compound of suspected terrorists, God does not want to see the destruction. He wants to leave the room and be alone in his grief and sorrow.

But even here, even in the resolve to destroy is a sense that mercy can triumph. In this case God makes a promise to Moses that He will not destroy him with the people. Moses will continue to be special, and Moses will be the foundational person for God’s next “great work.” But notice what has happened.

In giving these last words God has left the divine open for negotiation and intercession. It is not as if God is giving Moses an invitation to talk back, but there are ideas now floating “out there” that are more than just anger, stubbornness and destruction. God will “save” Moses. Moses will take this verse as an opening to respond to God.

Moses does what Aaron didn’t. Moses prays in faith. He trusts that the Lord could handle this situation and will listen to him. He trusts that in the anger and judgement there is still a greater heart of mercy and love for these rogues!

Moses says three things about God’s decision to judge this people as he “stands in the gap” between the righteous wrath of the Lord and an idolatrous people.  

  1. Lord, you created and saved this people.
  2. Lord, your reputation as a compassionate God of steadfast love who is faithful to your promises will laughed at by your enemies if you destroy these sinful people
  3. Lord, you promised things to these people way back in Abraham’s time.

The Hebrew words say that the Lord “repented” of the judgement he was about to carry out on his people. The Lord, at Moses’ bold praying, changed his mind and remained faithful and trustworthy when completely rejected by a loveless people.

Friends, we have this idolatrous heart.

  

And yet we have tangible signs of God’s continued presence and love to keep us true to him. We need to stick to where God has shown us he is there for us – physically and in every other way. Depend on your baptism. Reflect on it and own it because in it God owned you and loves you. Come to the altar regularly and get the hope and assurance you need for life’s journey, whatever the temptations and fears.

  

We have a role too. We are called to be Moses for people.  

  • Jesus, the One greater than Moses who stood in our place and intercedes for us still, pleads our case and bridges the gap between our holy and perfectly loving Lord and our idol factory within.
  • With him we can confess our idols, burn them and depend on his word to see us through to wellbeing now and in God’s eternal future – already guaranteed by the blood of the Lamb and Saviour of our souls.
  • And then we mediate his grace and love for others, helping them name their idols, repent of them, receive God’s gifts and walk with Jesus into their future with him.

With this simple trust in the Lord’s presence, promise and goodness, and the Calling we have each received, we can be right with Paul who says these great words of faith and conviction we share here at Ocean Forest…

  

Philippians 4:1-9, Closing Appeal for Steadfastness and Unity 

1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! …..

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Amen.



Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 8

BETWEEN THE TEXTS



Week 8


• We left the people of God at the camp at the base of Mt Sinai after the Lord had bound himself to them in a legal agreement or covenant out of sheer love and will to live with his people. God would treat the people as his treasured possession among all peoples a and make them into his holy nation of priests who mediate God’s life and blessing to all nations.


• The people agreed to this, and God then called Moses up the mountain to receive the “laws” or “commandments outlining the people’s end of the covenant relationship – the “10 Commandments”.


• Moses is still up in the thick smoke and the glory cloud at the summit of the mountain. Chapter 21-23 contain more detailed directions on the right treatment of servants, dealing with violence and injury between people, protection of people’s property, social responsibility regarding marriage, sexuality, money, then the practice of justice in this new community. Then there is some more direction on the keeping of the Sabbath and finally, an outline of the keeping of the three great annual festivals (Passover, Beginning of Cropping (Feast of Harvest) and then Harvest time – the ingathering festival.


• At the end of Chapter 23 we have a renewal of the promise of the land in Canaan with more detail about borders and how the Lord will give this land to the people (slowly as they grow in population – 23:29ff).


• The there is another telling moment when the treaty or covenant has been understood and now confirmed. Moses, Aaron and his two sons (Nadab and Abihu) and the 70 Elders of the community ascend with Moses to the summit. As well as this the covenant is outlined to the people and animals are slaughtered in a great show of affirmation to the Lord’s covenant. The people say en mass, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey” (Ex 24:7).


• For the once and only time, Moses (or any other leaders after him) then used the blood of the many animals slaughtered as offerings to the Lord to sprinkle the people with blood. This is the


signing of the Covenant. “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you….” Moses says (hear the words Jesus says at the Last Supper). (Ex 24:8). Also, this sprinkling of blood was annually carried out by the High Priest in the Jerusalem temple on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)


• We get a short Book of Revelation like description of what God “looked like” by Aaron, his sons and the Elders in Ex 24:10-11.


• Moses then stays for another long stint with the Lord on the mountain (a month or more). This time he is not receiving laws about how the people are to live together with justice and mercy, but how and where they are to rest with the Lord in worship. In Chapters 25-31 Moses receives the detailed instructions on the building of the Tabernacle, the formation and attire of the priesthood (Tribe of Levi), various sacred furnishings and procedures for using them.


• God promises to meet with his people where he will listen to them and speak to them. He will do this always because he wishes to “dwell” or “tabernacle” or “tent it” with his loved and chosen community of holy people (see Ex 29:42-46 for a beautiful little summary on this by the Lord!)

• This whole moral code and system of sacrificial worship and the place where it happens (the travelling place of God’s gracious presence – Tabernacle) are now established and the people have their vocation, the promise of the Lord’s everlasting faithfulness and care and the future of the land to live in still on the way. Things are looking good!

WEEK 8 Exodus 32:1-14 (TNIV)


The golden calf ( numbers relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)

1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”1 2


2 Aaron 3 answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. 4 Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”5


5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry 6.7


7 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt.8 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’


9 “I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people.9 10 Now leave me alone11 so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. 11Then I will make you into a great nation.”10


11 But Moses sought the favour of the LORD his God. “LORD,” 12 he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger;13 relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the LORD relented14 and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.15



THOUGHTS
How often it is that our greatest moments are also our worst moments!? From the dizzy heights to being consecrated and meeting with the Lord and receiving his direct word on how to be community and one with him to the darkest moment in Israel’s history – up there withy the first Fall of the first people in Genesis 3.


1. Moses has been gone for at least a month. “While the farmer is away the ice will play”, as they say. The request from the people to Aaron is not a easy going thing, it is a demand in no uncertain terms. The sense of the Hebrew words is that the people “gather upon or against” Aaron.


2. Their demand is a direct rejection of Moses and also God’s leadership because it was Moses but the Lord who bought them up out of Egypt.


3. Aaron does not fare well in this dark moment. His leadership is indecisive, too compromising and it displays something of a weak character as he gives in too quickly to the people, then tries to salvage the situation, only to make it worse and then later, when under scrutiny from Moses, (v22-24), lies and denies responsibility – blaming the people for this.


4. Aaron takes control and asks the people to bring their gold and silver to him so he can make what they demand – an idol figure – a calf being an idol often used for depicting fertility of land, animals and people. Aaron fashions this calf from either wood, overlayed with the gold, or melts down a lot of gold and fashions it from pure gold.


5. Aaron does not speak these demanding words. “They”, that is, the people, speak these words of complete rejection of the Lord’s heart and actions to make them who they are.


6. Aaron then tries to turn the “worship” back to the Lord, rather then the golden calf. Of course this does not work. You cannot worship the Lord in any other way than the ways in which he says. Even worshipping the “right God” the wrong way is still disobedience and a sign of a divided heart. The Lord calls the people to worship him in the ways he gives, not in the ways they just make up.


7. The text puts things in understated terms, probably for the sake of modesty. This is all out sexually over-the-top pagan orgy – sacred sex, acute and brazen, shameless partying all in the name of spirituality and connection with the divine. The people are returning from when they came – a pagan people in a culture of immorality and satisfaction of desire at all levels. Their evil heart is on show and the evil is visible, corporate and personal.


8. The scene switches to the mountain again where the Lord sees all and tells Moses to get down to the chaos quickly – to stop it. The Lord names the sin – “the people have become corrupt”, he says. “The “corruption” is disowning the Lord. They broken that first commandment in not loving the Lord and worshipping/serving/obeying him only with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.


9. “Stiff necked” people is an expression many a prophet, king or leader of Israel has names Israel! Jesus uses this term to speak against the Pharisees often. it comes probably from working animals like oxen or cows – when the animals will just not do what it is told to do no matter what you do or say! It is an accurate depiction of the human problem of sin.


10. The Lord’s wrath is stirred. Offence is taken and he acts to judge the people for their obvious sin against his love, mercy, power and promise to be their God and treasure these people among all others.


11. However, this severest of punishment the Lord contemplates in Moses’ hearing is conditional upon Moses’ agreement. “Leave me alone to do this, “says the Lord. The Lord leaves the door open on mercy, even when greatly offended and rejected by the people he loves.


12. Moses, now all alone, between the Lord and the people, brings HIS own request for mercy to the Lord. Moses is now the great intercessor for God’s people who gives three reasons why the Lord should not condemn his people for their overt sin against him.


i. They are the people he himself has already redeemed
ii. The destruction of the people would make the Lord a laughing stock to the Egyptians who he defeated
iii. The promises the Lord has given to make this people a numerous nation living in the land he also promised.


13. Amazingly, Moses calls the Lord to “repent” (“turn” and “relent”)! Such is Moses’ relationship with the Lord that he can ask the Lord of all things to “repent” or turn around or turn away from his anger and judgement.


14. Even more amazingly, the Lord listens to his servant. Moses, and “repents” or “relents” of his judgement out of respect and love for Moses (and the people).


15. It is important to note that Moses at no stage diminished the problem or excuses the sin. He simply asks for mercy and a remembering of the Lord’s past promises and actions. This is true intercession. To pray for people is not to cover up things or make excuses for their behaviour before the Lord, but to name the problem, the sin and ask simply ask for God to act in grace, not judgement.


REFLECTIONS
1. This is a dark day where the human heart is fully exposes and all of our base human desire and sensual pleasures rise to the top in a show of brazen rejection of God’s mercy and plan for how we are to live with him and each other. It shows the ability we have to do our worst even in the midst of God’s best!


2. While the Lord is giving everything he has to his people, his people are doing whatever they want with his gifts; quite literally – the gold and silver given to them by the Lord’s hand when they came out of Egypt are now used to totally reject all that he has done and all that he is for them.


3. Leadership Note: Something cannot be compromised – even under great pressure to cave in to people’s demands. Knowing what to allow to happen and what to never let happen is so difficult for anyone in any kind of leadership, and doubly so for matters to do with idolatry and sexual morality (the two often go together). Aaron made a wrong call. He allowed something to happen that was always a direct rejection of all that the people were meant to be on about as they lived in this new covenant relationship with a holy God of love.


4. Once the thing has been allowed by the leader, it is very difficult to turn it back around for good. The damage is done and the evil grows and gets worse. I guess the message for leaders here is to be clear on one’s “baselines” when dealing with subordinates and never compromise on these baseline expectations, even if it means putting your own role on the line – lest you let sin and evil run their destructive course in the community you are called to lead……


5. Amazing how Moses can call God to “repent” or change his mind on things. How is your relationship with the Lord? Is there this kind of honesty and openness in your prayer life with him?


6. Moses is the great mediator and intercessor for his people. Once he is assured by the Lord that the future of the people is assured and God is still God for him and the people, he acts with firm clarity on what is happening and quickly stops it with a show of decisive leadership. He knows his baselines and he acts like a gatekeeper in not letting this moment have lasting affects of further destruction among the people. (see v19-20, 26-29). The punishment is done but is quite small in extent. About 3000 men are put to the sword out of a possible 600,000.


7. Then Moses seeks to make atonement in some way for the people’s great sin against the Lord. (see v30). He even offers his own life in place of the people! (v31) Now that is a Jesus’ like thing to do! The Lord does not take up Moses’ offer but withholds his judgement of this sin for a future time. That is the cost of this sin. There is judgement to be done at some stage in the people’s future.


8. Here we see God’s justice and grace at work. He is not fickle, but slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and yet he is holy and just and sin is sin. Sin cannot be left to its own devices and must be names and dealt with I some way so that it is limited and so “removed” in a community.


9. The New Testament makes it clear that this account of the people’s sin, God’s judgement on their sin and his grace to continue in his covenant relationship with the people is relevant to us. St Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian church, as he speaks to their assembled Jewish leaders in Jerusalem after the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 7) makes the point that just as Israel cast Moses’ aside, rejecting the word of God he spoke, and turned to idols, so also Israel now will cast aside God’s promised Messiah (Jesus Christ) and those who proclaim him.


10. St Paul in 1Corinthains 10, arguing that Israel was the people of God, experiencing in a spiritual sense, baptism in the Red Sea and Eucharist and even the Messiah in the bread from heaven, and yet, they sinned (1Cor 10:1-5). Their rebellion against the Lord (and the Christ – Jesus), is to be an example to all followers of the Christ “not to desire evil as they did” (10:6). Paul warns anyone who thinks they are above or beyond these things of immorality, idolatry and grumbling against the Lord, to be very careful, lest they too fall into these things (10:12). The rebellious spirit of the human heart can “break out” even among those who have the Christ and the sure signs of his presence and mercy in baptism and Lord’s Supper.


11. God’s mercy and judgement sit side by side in this event and indeed, throughout the life of God’s people. He is just. He has to judge ad limit human sin. And yet, he made some promises and bound himself to this sinful people out of love for them. God will call sin, sin and offer forgiveness fro sin and restore people. The new covenant of Jesus is now based on the forgiveness of sins, not the keeping of the law, and yet, the 10 Commandments still stand as his will and way for human being to live together with the Lord and each other.


12. God’s mercy edges out his judgment here and in may other places in the bible. Surely our calling is to be the same and follow Moses, and the greater mediator, Jesus, who appeared once and for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26).

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 7

BETWEEN THE TEXTS

Week 7
• Remember, Exodus is all about two things – knowing God and vocation. Exodus is an account of knowing God through personal experience and how it is that God would call a nation to be the community through which he would bless the human family.
• We leave the once thirsty and threatening people of Israel drinking up rivers of waters from that miracle Rock in the desert as we head on into the unknown journey. The destination has always been Mt Horeb or My Sinai (same place). Right from when Moses went up Mt Horeb way back in Exodus 3:12 to see that burning bush and get more than he bargained for, the aim of this whole “coming out” and freeing of God’s people was for the purpose of worship on God’s holy mountain.
• After their “Massah” and “Meribah” moment, and then a brief scuffle with the troublesome Amelakites (that would continue in perpetuity; Exodus 17:8-16), and a lesson in leadership technique given to Moses by his Father-in-law, Jethro (Exodus 18) the people of Israel, under God’s pillar of fire by night and cloud by day travel further across and down the Sinai Peninsular and finally reach their destination three months after they left Egypt (Exodus 18:1).
• We now switch to the second part of the Book of Exodus. The first part was the actual build up to and moment of Exodus to reach Sinai. Now from chapter 19 – 40 and through Leviticus and into Numbers chapter 10 we are at the Mt Sinai.
• A significant moment is upon us. You can tell this by the extended dialogue that now happens between, the Lord, and Moses, then Moses and the Elders of Israel (Chapter 19:3 onwards…)
• Something big is initiated by the Lord. The Lord says, “You have seen what I have done for you…… If you obey me and keep my covenant (legally binding agreement between God and the people), then you will be my treasured possession among all the nations – you will be whole nation priests and a holy/set apart nation….”
• So, for the first time we have the mention of that word “covenant” and it is very significant. God promises to be their God and make them into a specially chosen nation with the special role of being priests for the world. Priests both represent other people before God and so intercede for others as well as represent God to other people and speak God’s word to people. They are intermediaries between a holy God and his creation. Priests also mediate forgiveness between a holy God and an unholy people. Israel is to be the nation through which God’s blessing and forgiveness are given to all nations.
God is initiating a legally binding agreement with his people that will define their relationship and responsibilities in their vocation to be a blessing of God to the world for all time. He will be their God and be present to hear them and bless them as they keep the covenant – that is – the Law – both the moral law (10 commandments: Chapter 20:3-17) and the sacrificial law _ worship system; chapter 20:22-26)) and other communal decrees for the well being of the community (chapter 21-23)
Theophany. We are now to experience another theophany, like that of Moses and the burning bush (in the same place). God is present as he makes this agreement with the people in fire and smoke on the mountain. Moses is the go-between. He is up and down the mountain a lot!! God seals his covenant with the people in a solemn ceremony where the people have to prepare themselves, lest they incur God’s holy judgement. Special limits have to placed around the mountain (a fence) to ensure that no unprepared person is killed!
• This is a covenant not to make them into a nation. They already are God’s chosen nation through the promise to Abraham. This is their commissioning as blessing bearers to the world and this is done through a treaty or covenant.
• As is ancient practice, a covenant or treaty is not done by the signing of documents (as it is for us these days), it is done by the shedding of blood. The covenant made with the people by God is sealed by blood. (see 20 verses 24on…)
• The treaty or agreement or covenant is like any ancient treaty in form and structure. It sets out what has happened (the Abraham promise and exodus), the two parties, The Lord and the people and their parts of the agreement (as outlined above) see 19:3-7 for God’s part. See the 10 commandments for the people’s part!

WEEK 7 Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 (TNIV)
The 10 commandments ( numbers relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)
1 And God spoke all these words1:
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery2.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below3, 4.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name5.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour and do all your work5,
12 “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you 6.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour7.”
18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning8.”

THOUGHTS
1. It important to understand that this is all God’s initiative and choice. He is present by his voice and he is making all of this happen. This is not two equal parties making a treaty like we would understand. This is two unequal parties making an agreement where one party (the Lord) is all powerful and holy and righteous) and the other party (the people) unholy, nothing and of no power or authority). So, it is all the Lord and his grace making this covenant by which he promises to be present to hear his people and bless them. It is grace, grace, grace!

2. God names himself and recounts his past action – salvation and freedom. He has freed this rabble and he has made them into a nation by a promise (when they were nothing) and now makes them into a nation of priests to mediate his blessing and salvation for all nations (by his power and authority and grace – not theirs!)

3. The first command: the most crucial stipulation of this treaty: The Lord demands exclusive loyalty and love for this to work. He wants to love, bless, listen, lead and be with his people. he is calling them to do the same, otherwise this treaty/relationship will not work and Israel will not be his holy priests of blessing for the world.

4. Icons or Idols?: Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans and others keep these two parts of the first commandment together (we believe they are the two sides to the same coin). Other Christian traditions have separated them to make 11 commandments and emphasised the whole aspect of “making graven images”. This is why many Christians struggle with Orthodox icons, crosses (especially with a body on it) or even Christian art and symbols in general being in the worship space. They believe it is a breaking of the first commandment. This group have risen up from time to time and often have been called “iconoclasts” – destroying church buildings, statues, images and etc in church buildings.

We see that these parts make up one commandment and it has a practical application there and then. Israel will be surrounded by other nations who practice idol worship to many “gods”. They will constantly have to steer clear of worship practices of other nations’ “things of stone and wood” because these “gods” are really no God at all but just lifeless “things of stone and wood” that do not hear or see and are not alive. There is only one Living God – the Lord, “I AM”. Art, poetry, music, imagery that helps us imagine and focus on this one Living Lord is to be valued!!

5. These first three stipulations of God’s covenant agreement with the people are all about how the people and the Lord relate together (The “First Table” of the Law). They love the Lord and honour and worship him only to the exclusion of all others for life (like Marriage?) by respecting and carefully handling/using his great name (I AM – Yahweh) and resting with him regularly as they gather in communal worship where God hears them, feasts with them and blesses them.

6. The rest of the stipulations are about how this holy nation of priests is to live together in peace in their vocation (“The Second Table” of the Law). Respect and honour of family (parents, elders, husbands, wives, children) is critical for this nation to be at peace and strong and functioning as priests for the world.

7. All the vices of the human heart are named and warned against here. Is it any wonder that this moral code has served as the universal backbone of human community across ages and continents!?

8. God’s intention is that the people live and not die; that they live in his presence and with his blessing, not incur his righteous judgement of unholy sin and be out of his loving presence. The law both demands faithfulness from his people and protects his people from the consequences of treating each other wrongly.

REFLECTIONS

1. This 10 commandments became the centre piece of life in Israel. The Rabbis over the centuries reflected on how Israel is to keep the Covenant by keeping these commandments. As God told the people to put a fence up around the bottom of the mountain to protect the people from intentionally or inadvertently sinning against the Lord while he was present on the mountain giving these holy stipulations to Moses, so the Rabbis went further and put a fence around God’s presence in a long process of defining and re-defining these ten commands into 613 rules!

2. The idea was to fully understand and practice these commandments in every detail so as to live in God’s continued promises and blessing. For example, the Sabbath command was a favourite – what is “rest” and what is “work” and how do we rest with the Lord and so “keep the Sabbath day holy” or “set apart”? Well we walk more slowly and only certain distances “A Sabbath days walk from,…”. We do not work with our flocks or livestock or at our trade. We do not cook. All cooking has to be done before sundown Friday. In modern Jewish house, we put self-timers on lights so that we don not so “work” by switching on a light…….

3. This practice of interpreting the 10 Commandments (not to mention all the following worship law and general community law) was taken on in full force by the Rabbis over hundreds of years. There are tomes and tomes of “mishna” texts discussing the practicalities and theology of the law. In the end you end up with what is called “casuistry” that is bad for two reasons. Somewhere in the endless attempt to “protect people from sinning” again God, God’s grace and love get lost and God is taught as some cosmic law keeper who is not interested in anything else but the law and keeping the rules! Also, those who are “experts” in the law, can keep the people fearful and loaded up with endless demands that keep them from questioning or thinking about anything else! This is exactly what God often charged Israel’s leaders with and Jesus charged the Pharisees with (see Luke 11:37-54).

4. In Jesus time, the Pharisees and Sadducees were really lawyers whose main concern was the keeping of the Law – all 613 rules. And yet there was some genuine faith and belief there too. Their belief was that if Israel could keep the “Torah” (Law) for just one day, this would usher in the coming of the Messiah who would restore Israel to its original Abraham promise of land, status and nationhood. So, they thought they were serving the Lord faithfully by keeping the law themselves and teaching the people to do the same.

5. When the New Testament speaks of “the Law” it is speaking of this part of the Sinai treaty/covenant. This 10 commandments given to Moses and the people on Sinai is often called the “Decalogue” (the 10 words) and forms the basis for the Old “Covenant” or “Testament” relationship between God and his people until the new Covenant or Testament” in Jesus the Messiah’s blood is at the cross.

6. God’s pass mark for staying in his blessing and presence is 100%! He says, “Be holy because I am holy”. We eventually discover in life that we can not keep the Law. We know we fall short of God’s demands. It is them that we look for someone or something to help us find peace with each other, ourselves and God. We then hear Jesus speaking of himself being the sacrificial lamb to be slaughtered for the world so that the world might live and not be condemned by God’s righteous judgement on our sin against the Lord.

7. In the Luther’s struggle to find peace with God it is the good news for his tortured conscience that he found in Romans 3:21 onwards….

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

9. Now the 10 Commandments become three things for us who believe in Jesus;

10. A Control: These commandments (the last 7) are the basis for our civil law system and through their keeping in a society, evil and its damage are limited by the Lord. This is his “left hand” work or kingdom working.

11. A driver: We hear them and we apply them to our own life and we know we fall short and so we are driven back to Jesus to find forgiveness and life. (This is God’s right hand or kingdom working)

12. A mirror: With Jesus ongoing forgiveness and life, we hear these commandments and we see who we are and what we need to do to fulfil our vocation and his “priesthood of all believers” in our workplace, family and society.

8. By the blood of Jesus Christ the Law has been fulfilled perfectly for us and God has made a new covenant with us, not based on keeping these 10 commandments but by putting faith in Jesus of Nazareth as our Lord and Saviour – the Lamb of God who really has taken away the sin (and its consequence – death) of the world – out of sheer underserved, unmerited love (grace)!

Freed to Follow: an Exodus Journey Week 6

Sermon

Pentecost 15A

Freed to Follow series

Exodus 17:1-7I have had moments where I have aggressively questioned God’s presence and plan for my life. I have had times where I have I have fought against God’s direction and asked him to prove himself to me and us. These are called “Merribah” and “Massah” times.
Water From the Rock

1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?”
3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
5 The LORD answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah[a] and Meribah[b] because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

a.Exodus 17:7 Massah means testing.
b.Exodus 17:7 Meribah means quarreling.



We hear today about what happened out in the desert between God and his people. What happened got a name – or two names. ‘Merribah’: to aggressively question, and Massah: to put God to the proof – to demand that he prove himself to you. I reckon you may have been there too?



Life’s journey just brings these testing, fighting, doubting, and aggressive questioning of God times into our experience.



Whether it is a Year 7 Christian Studies class, a funeral for a man who dies in his early 40’s, a conversation with a spouse going through divorce or a person trying to get their head around one of those big transition times that just happen in life, “Is the Lord with us, or not?” is the Merribah and Massah question.



I led a strange kind of “funeral” yesterday. It is definitely a Massah and Merribah time for a lot of people around this community with the tragic loss of Fulvio Canetti; aged 41, husband and father of two boys – both of whom were up until recently students of our college. It was a strange “funeral” because it was not really a funeral and not really a gathering of the church in any way. It was outdoors at the Lakes with no coffin (because of the long time it takes for coroner’s reports and etc…), and yet we were able to speak of God’s presence and grace and the resurrection of Jesus as hope in these Merribah times.



Pray: Spirit of God, speak into our testing times as we hear your Word and reflect upon it. Amy our meditation on your Word be acceptable in your sight and fruitful for faith, hope and love in our lives. Amen.



Again in this journey of Exodus we are facing a “water problem” as we did just prior to the Lord “raining down” manna from heaven in 15:22ff. But this time the “testing” is of a more serious nature.


People are now not merely lodging a complaint to Moses and therefore, the Lord. No, the people are now fighting against Moses and asking God to prove himself, thereby calling the Lord’s leadership, management and character into real question. I guess this can happen when there is no water and real desperation sets in among a group of people. In these times of real crisis – be it communal of personal, people can say and do strange things in their desperation.
 They are “quarrelling” or “finding fault” with Moses (poor Moses!) and his leadership. The “fault” they find is Moses’ intentions. They accuse Moses of being a shadowy, underbelly kind of man who has their murder on his mind. They think he is masterminding a mass murder in the desert, like some megalomaniac cult leader or something.


Moses points out that as they accuse him of such underhanded and evil intent, so they actually accuse the Lord of the same things because Moses is only a mere servant of the Lord. The Lord is plotting the course of their lives, not Moses! The people don’t seem to pull back from their fighting accusations. They don’t seem to realise that when they pull down a servant of God they are directly offending and rejecting the Hand that feeds them.
 Leadership note here: grumbling, accusation, fighting and questioning of one’s integrity come with the territory of leadership! Moses will constantly have to deal with this fault finding of him by the people and on occasions it turns very nasty as he even will be on the edge of being stoned to death by these people! (Numbers 14:10). Moses has now joined an elite club of servants of the Lord who have been on the receiving end or a threat of or actual stoning by God’s people – David (1 Samuel 30:6, Jesus John 10:31, Stephen Acts 7:58, Paul Acts 14:19).


Moses’ response to this now different kind of testing is also different than previously. Notice how Moses now gives vent to his own fears as he speaks not of “God’s people”, or “my people”, or even “your people”, but “these people”. It is as if Moses is teaming up with the Lord and accusing these agro people of wrong doing. He is siding with the Lord and getting a small taste of what it is like for the Lord to have to knock these troublesome people into shape for their vocation of being a blessing to the whole world!


The Lord responds to the tricky situation of angry people ready to exact their desperate anger on Moses by doing something very visible once again. Moses is directed to go “in front” of the people with witnesses in tow (the Elders). They are all going to get good seats in the house to see again that the Lord is with them and responding to them and keeping his promise to get them to their promised destination.


Moses is instructed to use the same rod with which he “struck” the waters of the Nile to now turn this rocky land into a stream of gushing water. There is no doubt as to the Lord’s message here. He has provided them with water from dry land, as he also provided them with dry ground through the water at the Sea of Reeds. He is the Lord. He is still with them. Moses is indeed his servant. God takes responsibility for the plight of his people and handles their anger and doubt and deep questioning of his integrity with a show of power and gracious care.


In all of this, the question any person or any community asks when hard testing befalls them is uttered by God’s people at their Merribah and Massah time. “Is the Lord with us, or not?”


In this very human question they are raising serious doubts as to the Lord’s honesty, integrity and will regarding his stated promises to deliver on his promise to get them to the new land, give them a great name among the nations and keep them alive and growing as a nation, as he once promised to their father, Abraham (Genesis 12). They find fault with God’s leadership, management and plan for this to happen and they ask him to show himself and his will again – not in friendly terms but doubting, harsh and distrustful terms.


Testing times bring out the best and the worst in people. When we ask that question in real angst, “Are you with me, Lord, or not?” in our Merribah and Massah, whatever they be – broken marriage, terminal illness, violent threat, economic hardship, tragic loss, personal weakness, and whatever other place we stumble across on our desert way of Jesus’ cross, Moses shows the way faithful people respond to their Lord.


1) First, he gives voice to his own fears.
2) Secondly, he seeks the Lord on the issue. Moses seeks the Lord’s word on  
    the situation (“What should I do, Lord?),
3) He confesses faith in the Lord (Why do you find fault and fight with the
    Lord? He asks).


What have you done when under the pump in life? These three things or other things?


Moses trusts that the Lord can receive his fear, pain, complaint and anxiety. He tells God what is what.
 Moses truly reaches out to the Lord and prays that prayer in the heart, “Lord, teach me your way here”. He actually seeks God’s word on in his Merribah and Massah time.


Moses is on the Lord’s side. He does not give in to the people’s fault finding or aggressive questioning of him and the Lord. He lives through the testing by confessing faith in the Lord when there is no easy reason to do so.


Moses does these things for himself, but also for the greater good of the people. Moses “nails his colours to the mast” and declares his loyalty and trust in the Lord as he asks the Lord what he should do with “these people”.



So, where are you thins week?! Aggressively doubting the Lord for what he did not do for you or placing your life in his hands anyway?


Wherever you are and however Merribah and Massah are God seems so very able to absorb all the grumbling, complaining, fault finding and aggressive questioning his people throw at him. Most often he responds to their need with grace. Now and again he responds with judgement. This will happen later in the journey after Mt Sinai when the covenant between God and the people has been made at Sinai.

Here he gives them what they need – not just the water but a sign that he was still there with them and for them, wanting them to live and continue the journey with him.
Jesus stands up at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem (which traditionally remembered this Merribah and Massah moment in the desert) and proclaims those famous words recorded in John 7:37, “If anyone thirst, let that person come to me and drink”. He is saying that he is the living water from the rock. He is the water that quenches a person’s thirst for life for ever in all the Merribah and Massah moments of our doubting desperation and questioning of God’s integrity.


Paul says that Jesus is this rock of living water that sustains God’s people. Christ was in that desert place, in that questioning of God’s character, in that desperate fear and worry – Jesus is the life-giving stream from the most unlikely place – a dry, dead rocky source. (1 Corinthians10:4).


When the testing time is upon us, or a testing time has happened to us and we are still dealing with it, we have the choices of questioning the Lord and his leadership, his management, his church, his leaders (which may be necessary at times because the church is only full of imperfect human beings!) or doing those things Moses did – telling God how things are (an act of trust), seeking the Lord’s Word and confessing faith in his goodness given in Jesus, the Man of Sorrows and the wounded healer of our souls. Faithfulness to the God of life and promise is in these things somewhere………


In the end, this event gets this response from the priests, poets and song writers of God’s people…
In the end, we have a calling – to not harden our hearts and block our ears as Pharaoh did but to come and worship the Lord at Merribah and Massah…..


Psalm 95


Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,[a]
as you did that day at Massah[b] in the wilderness,

9 where your ancestors tested me;

they tried me, though they had seen what I did.

10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;

I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,

and they have not known my ways.’


1 (But) Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving

and extol him with music and song.

3 For the LORD is the great God,

the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,

and the mountain peaks belong to him.



5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands formed the dry land.

6 Come, let us bow down in worship,

let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;

7 for he is our God

and we are the people of his pasture,

the flock under his care.



Through Moses the Lord really turns this question back around on us. We ask, “Are you with us or not, Lord?” The Lord and his servant Moses really respond with a question back at us, “Are you with the Lord, or not?”Footnotes:

Freed to Follow Week 6

BETWEEN THE TEXTS

Week 6


• Remember, Exodus is all about two things – knowing God and vocation. Exodus is an account of knowing God through personal experience and how it is that God would call a nation to be the community through which he would bless the human family.


• We left the Israelites feeling quite contented and happy after the Lord had responded to their complaint by providing bread and meat to eat for the duration of their desert journey on a daily basis. The ongoing dynamic of the Lord shaping his people had begun with the Lord testing the peoples’ trust in him and then giving them every assurance that He in deed can be trusted – especially in testing times. Testing leads to trust and is all about trust, we said.


• Again we come to a testing moment. This one will become quite famous in years to come. It will be put into verse and song a few times, but especially in Psalm 95.

……Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did……



• This testing event was a serious one, worthy of remembering for all time.






WEEK 5 Exodus 16:2-15 (TNIV)


Water from the Rock ( numbers relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)


1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, travelling from place to place as the LORD commanded 1 2. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink3. 2 So they quarrelled4 with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”


Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me5? Why do you put the LORD to the test?6


3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst5?”


4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people8? They are almost ready to stone me7.”


5 The LORD answered Moses, “Go out in front9 of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go10. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah[a] and Meribah[b] because the Israelites quarrelled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?11, 12

Footnotes:
a. Exodus 17:7 Massah means testing.
b. Exodus 17:7 Meribah means quarrelling.

THOUGHTS


1. We get these little travelling notes from time-to-time throughout Exodus and Numbers, as the journey goes on. There are difficulties with the places mentioned and their order, so it is quite difficult to be certain of the route the Israelites actually took in the vast spaces of the Sinai Peninsular.


2. They are people on the move. God is on the move. There is constant change and constant need, testing, shows of God’s presence and commitment to his people and strength given for the ongoing journey of faith – sounds like the Church!


3. Again we are facing a “water problem” as we did just prior to the Lord “raining down” manna from heaven in 15:22ff. But this time the “testing” is of a more serious nature.


4. We are now fighting, not just complaining! When there is no water and desperation sets in among a group of people, people can say and do strange things in their desperation. The brunt of their desperation in God’s servant, Moses.


5. They are “quarrelling” or “finding fault” with him and his leadership. The “fault” they find is Moses’ intentions. They accuse Moses of being a shadowy, underbelly kind of man who has their murder on his mind. They think he is masterminding a mass murder in the desert, like some megalomaniac cult leader or something.


6. Moses points out that as they accuse him of such underhanded and evil intent, so they actually accuse the Lord of the same things because Moses is only a mere servant of the Lord. The Lord is making up the plan as they go, not Moses! The people don’t seem to pull back from their fighting accusations. They don’t seem to realise that when they pull down a servant of God they are directly offending and rejecting the Hand that feeds them.


7. Moses will constantly have to deal with this fault finding of him by the people and on occasions it turns very nasty as he even will be on the edge of being stones to death by these people! (Numbers 14:10). Moses has now joined an elite club of servants of the Lord who have been on the receiving end of a threat of or actual stoning by God’s people – David (1 Samuel 30:6, Jesus John 10:31, Stephen Acts 7:58, Paul Acts 14:19).


8. Notice how Moses now gives vent to his own fears as he speaks not of “God’s people”, or “my people”, or even “your people”, but “these people”. It is as if Moses is teaming up with the Lord and accusing these agro people of wrong doing and expecting the Lord to feel the same about “these people”. He is not saying “your people” and thereby putting all the blame for the current trouble on God’s shoulders. He will do that later!! He is siding with God and getting a small taste of what it is like for the Lord to have to knock these troublesome and so very human people into shape for their vocation of being a blessing to the whole world!


9. The Lord responds to the tricky situation of angry people ready to exact their desperate anger on Moses by doing something very visible once again. Moses is directed to go “in front” of the people with witnesses in two (the Elders). They are all going to get good seats in the house to see again that the Lord is with them and responding to them and keeping his promise to get them to their promised destination.


10. Moses is instructed to use the same rod with which he “struck” the waters of the Nile to turn them into blood to now turn this rocky land into a stream of gushing water. There is no doubt as to the Lord’s message here. He has provided them with water from dry land, as he also provided them with dry ground through the water at the Sea of Reeds. He is the Lord. He is still with them. Moses is indeed his servant. God takes responsibility for the plight of his people and handles their anger and doubt and deep questioning of his integrity with a show of power and gracious care.


11. It is noteworthy that this event is given two names to be remembered by. It must be significant! The words means “finding fault with” and “putting to the proof” someone. The people ask, “Is the Lord with us, or not?” They are raising serious doubts as to the Lord’s honesty, integrity and will regarding his stated promises to deliver on his promise to get them to the new land, give them a great name among the nations and keep them alive and growing as a nation, as he once promised to their father, Abraham (Genesis 12). They find fault with God’s leadership and management and pan for this to happen and they ask him to show himself and his will again – not in friendly terms but doubting, harsh and distrustful terms.


12. Through Moses the Lord really turns this question back around on the people. They ask, “Are you with us or not?” The Lord and his servant Moses really respond with a question back at them, “Are you with the Lord, or not?”

REFLECTIONS
1. Testing times brings out the best and the worst in people. In his own fear Moses rises to the occasion and seeks the Lord on the people’s behalf as well as for himself. Moses “nails his colours to the mast” and declares his loyalty and trust in the Lord as he asks the Lord what he should do with “these people”.


2. Moses is on the Lord’s side. He does not give in to the people’s fault finding or aggressive questioning of him and the Lord. So he “passes the testing” by seeking the Lord and confessing faith in the Lord when there is no easy reason to do so.


3. On the other hand, the people lower their colours in fear and mistrust of Moses and the Lord. They get aggressive in their fault finding of Moses, not realising that they are really having a go at the Lord, who had not only brought them into being by the promise to Abraham and the freeing work he had just completed in Egypt, but also given them a destiny, meaning and purpose in his world as his own blessing bearers to the world. In ungrateful aggression they turn on the Lord and accuse him of not being there, or if he is there, not with them and for them.


4. So, where are you thins week?! Aggressively doubting the Lord for what he did not do for you or placing your life in his hands anyway? The people ask, “Are you with us, Lord, or not?” God says, “Are you with me, or not? Where are you in your faith journey?


5. Is one of the things to notice here all about how we faithfully respond to life as people of God? In the midst of great threat not only to faith but to life itself, Moses leads the way by living his faith. In the face of hard testing, he does those two things: 1) He seeks the Lord’s word on the situation (“What should I do, Lord), 2) He confesses faith in the Lord (Why do you find fault and fight with the Lord? He asks). What have you done when under the pump in life? These things or other things?


6. God seems so very able to absorb all the grumbling, complaining, fault finding and aggressive questioning his people throw at him. Most often he responds to their need with grace. Now and again he responds with judgement. This will happen later in the journey after Mt Sinai when the covenant between God and the people has been made at Sinai. (See Numbers from chapter 10 – particularly Numbers 11:1-3 as an example). Here he gives them what they need – not just the water but a sign that he was still there with them and for them, wanting them to live and continue the journey with him.


7. This account went into the worship life of Israel in sing and verse. In the Feast of Tabernacles (one of the main feast in the Jewish calendar), this event is remembered and then used as a prayer for God’s blessing in the form of rain/water for a good crop and good year of his favour. The picture of the future messiah kingdom developed around this event with Jerusalem being the holy city of God built on top of a rock/mountain with streams of living water flowing from it to all nations (When the Messiah finally came). The prophets (especially Isaiah) took this event and pictured God’s future as “streams of living water bubbling up in the desert” etc…..(Isaiah 35)


8. Jesus stands up at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem and proclaims those famous words recorded in John 7:37, “If anyone thirst, let that person come to me and drink”. He was saying that he is the living water from the rock. He is the water that quenches a person’s thirst for life for ever (Remember the conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well recorded in John 4?


9. Paul picked up this event and the legend that developed around in latter times from the Rabbis who said that the rock from which the water came was picked up by the Lord and then followed the people wherever they went, when he says the Rock was Christ” himself with the people of old – and also now with us (1 Corinthians10:4).


10. When the testing time is upon us, or a testing time has happened to us and we are still dealing with it, we have the choices of questioning the Lord and his leadership, his management, his church, his leaders (which may be necessary at times because the church is only full of imperfect human beings!) or doing those things Moses did – seeking the Lord and confessing faith. Faithfulness to the God of life and promise is in these things somewhere………


In the end, this event gets this response from the priests, poets and song writers of God’s people…


Psalm 95


Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,[a]
as you did that day at Massah[b] in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’

1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
3 For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.



Sermon

Pentecost 14A
Week 5

Exodus: Freed to Follow



Sometimes I wonder how I can see anything through to its end because of wavering attitude or tiredness or lack of understanding! That word, “fickle” seems to fit me at times. How about you? It seems that when any kind of even mild “testing time” comes along, I find it hard to hang in there and “stay the course” as they say. Certainly, when it comes to following Jesus that word “fickle” comes to mind….


The fickle human heart is on full display this morning as we encounter this first moment of real testing of the faith in the Lord of this new community on their new journey.


• We left the Israelites in a joyful moment of victory on the shores of the Sea of Reeds as they sung the song Miriam and Moses wrote for the occasion, as they saw the bodies of the once mighty Egyptian military floating in the shallows after the Lord had comprehensively won the battle on their behalf.


• They had to put fear away, stand at the ready attentive to the Lord’s work in their midst and simply be still and know that he is the LORD and he wins the victory for them. At the end of it they all “feared the Lord and trusted Moses his servant”(14:31)


• After the celebrations of song and tambourine, it is off into the desert on this epic journey that will shape a nation into their vocation – to be a people through which God blesses all nations.


• They head east and travel through the North Western part of the Sinai Peninsular (Desert of Shur)

It is not long before the first of many food and water problems present themselves before this massive travelling community. Food and water are basic to life. When you are in a situation of not having enough water especially, things get rather desperate. I think of those early inland explorers here in Australia and their stories of desperation in the search for water – like Burke and Wills, Edward John Eyre…..


Well, God’s people are now in testing times!


But there is a point to the testing times as far as the Lord is concerned – the point of the testing is trust – trust in the Lord.


This journeying community of faith will be tested on this one issue over and over again. Moses makes the point of this hard testing clear in verse 26:


“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 his decrees, I will not bring any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, because I am the LORD who heals you”.


We hear of one “water problem” just before our text and then we get to other problem of food in our text this morning. How will this community on the move be shaped by God to fulfil their role in the world survive the testing times they face? This is an obvious question for any person on the journey of faith in God. How will I continue on in faith in God? We are about to find out that God will feed the people.


The LORD responds to the complaint not with harsh judgement but free gift – the gift of bread and meat for his people in the desert.


But there is something more going on here. There is that continuing shaping and testing of the people by the LORD. He gives his gifts for a purpose. He gives his gifts out of commitment to his people and love for them, but also to shape them so that they fulfil their calling as his holy people of healing and blessing in his world.


But, as we can see here ourselves, and know in our own experience, we are so very fickle when it comes to relationship in general – maybe especially so in our relationship with the Lord.


Like the people of old, we cry out for sustenance, support, learning and help from people and God, and at the same time doubt whether God and people can and will respond to us.

We so quickly forget what has already been done for us and reject the very hands that feed us by attempting trying to control our life, our present and future without the very help and inspiration we sought from others and/or God.

We reject the Lord’s manna from heaven – Jesus Christ, and his living word in a number of ways –

We don’t bother to seek it. We misuse the bread of heaven as we try to force God’s word through a number of our “filters” like science, historical accuracy, self-help thinking, and whatever else is in the wind in our time, thereby making things far too complex and missing God’s voice in our “modern sophistication”.


We reject the Manna from heaven by gathering our own manna to sustain us – a more comfortable spirituality, a more individual faith journey without much reference to the Body of Christ – the church – with all its warts.


Of course the easy one is just accumulating more things or better things – relying on other “manna” we think will do the trick – now.

The list of our ways of doubting God and his promise to sustain us even in the desert of fear and evil and death goes on.

When will the complaint and doubt end? When will be able to trust the Lord and take him at his Word, even whether we fully understand it or not? When will we contentedly place our trust in God’s grace and power, take him at his word and commit our lives into his hands, even when we cannot understand what is happening to us, but keep moving in simple trust of our heavenly Father anyway?


Enter Jesus – the “Bread of Heaven”, who opens up the possibility and the way to an intimate trust of the Lord – not as a distant unfeeling, unthinking, unloving master, but a kind and loving Father who seeks us out, bears our weaknesses and forgives our rejection of his presence and concern for our life.


As Israel wandered in the harsh desert for 40 years, so Jesus entered the desert experience for 40 days where he was also put the harshest test by the Devil himself. The test was whether or not he would trust his Father and fulfil the promised plan to defeat sin and death once and for all. Jesus did, so we do (Matthew 3:15).


Jesus even cited those same words of Deuteronomy 8:3, “Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from God’s mouth”. So, he reiterating that we cannot truly live this life or our God-given calling by mere food and drink and the possessions of this world, but only by hearing every word that God speaks in his Word. The Word of God sustains our life – not anything less.


Jesus is far more than merely an obedient Israel. He is also the new and greater Moses who has begun a new age and a new relationship between the Lord and his new people – now Israelites and non-Israelites. Moses gave the people the Law (Torah) of God and was a mediator between God and the people. Jesus gives the new LAW (Matthew 5-7 – the Sermon on the Mount) and also feeds the people in the wilderness (Matthew 14:13-21).


Jesus is the “true Manna”, the “Bread of Heaven” (John 6:48-51). Jesus is the food from heaven himself who gives his own flesh and blood for the life of the world.


A friend of mine died this week in tragic circumstances. He left good mates, a loving wife and two loving boys behind, as well as a significant number of young boys in this community who looked up to him as their coach.


He was not one to partake of the bread of heaven – not in recent times anyway. I wish he was. I wish he did. Only God knows a man’s heart and God is gracious. He is the final judge on life – not you or me.


As I spent time with other blokes and their wives who also are not those who partake of the Bread of Heaven it has occurred to me again in this sadness that God’s bread is the only stuff that counts in then end.

God’s bread – Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified saviour of humanity, is life. He offers his own body and blood for life and living here and now. His body and blood and his Word are more precious than gold and of better quality than food cooked in a million cooking shows.

If you have discovered the Bread of Life and by faith receive it with God’s people then thank the Lord because this is what makes your life eternal and therefore hopeful – especially in times of grief and sorrow, but also in the everyday things of living and learning.


If you know people who have not tasted the Bread of Life, then the Call is on you to attend to his Word, be still in his presence often, trust Jesus in the testing, tell the story, do the action, invite people in to the Life of God in Jesus Christ.


If you are not sure you have ever tasted the sweet, sweet manna from heaven of Jesus Christ and his love for you, then the door is open and the gifts on offer – freely by simple faith in his good will toward you. Simply receive him.


Bread of heaven, in the desert,
feed me now and evermore.
Feed me now and evermore.
Amen

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 5

FREED TO FOLLOW EXODUS: NOTES, WEEK 5

• Remember, Exodus is all about two things – knowing God and vocation. Exodus is an account of knowing God through personal experience and how it is that God would call a nation to be the community through which he would bless the human family



• We left the Israelites in a joyful moment of victory on the shores of the Sea of Reeds as they sung the song Miriam and Moses wrote for the occasion, as they saw the bodies of the once mighty Egyptian military floating in the shallows after the Lord had comprehensively won the battle on their behalf. They had to put fear away, stand at the ready attentive to the Lord’s work in their midst and simply be still and know that he is the LORD and he wins the victory for them. At the end of it they all “feared the Lord and trusted Moses his servant”(14:31)


• After the celebrations of song and tambourine, it is off into the desert on this epic journey that will shape a nation into their vocation – to be a people through which God blesses all nations.
• They head east and travel through the North Western part of the Sinai Peninsular (Desert of Shur)

• It would be a constant worry to have to find water and food for this huge community on the move – especially in the harsh environment in which they were called to travel. They have their first experience threatening moment as they arrive at a water source after three days of travelling in the heat, shade less desert with all its dust and rocks and the water is brackish. (15:22-24)


• We get this first “grumbling” moment. There will be many of these throughout this long journey of faith (Exodus 16:2; 17:3; Numbers 14:2; 16:11; 16:41).


• These are testing times! The point of the testing is trust – trust in the Lord. This fledgling nation of blessing will be tested on this one issue over and over again. Moses makes the point of this hard testing clear in verse 26: “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 his decrees, I will not bring any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, because I am the LORD who heals you”.


• So, it is clear: this community will have to learnt o trust and obey if they are going to be the people they were created to be – a people of life and healing and blessing.


• Soon after this first dice with grumbling and doubting the LORD, the LORD ends the testing and brings the healing – they come to an oasis with 70 palm trees and 12 natural springs! The testing only lasts for as long as it needs to before the promised blessing is given again.


WEEK 5 Exodus 16:2-15 (TNIV)


The bread from heaven ( numbers relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)


2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron1. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death2.”


4 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. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.3


6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.”


9 Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’”


10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud.


11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’”


13 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was4, 5. 6

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.

THOUGHTS
1. Now water is no longer the immediate problem! The problem is food. How will this community on the move being shaped by God to fulfil their role in the world survive the testing times they face? This is an obvious question for any person on the journey of faith in God. How will I continue on in faith in God? We are about to find out that God will feed the people.


2. As the people become more and more skilled at complaining as they express their lack of trust in the Lord (through Moses), they look back to “the good old days”. It is a common ploy we humans use to express our doubt about the present. The Israelites are very good at it. They know how to make a good whinge!


3. The LORD responds to the complaint not with harsh judgement but free gift – the gift of bread and meat for his people in the desert. But there is something going on here. There is that continuing shaping and testing of the people by the LORD. He gives his gifts for a purpose. He gives his gifts out of commitment to his people and love for them, but also to shape them so that they fulfil their calling as his holy people of healing and blessing in his world.


4. The deal is this: The LORD will rain down bread and birds to eat in daily portions only. There will enough for everyone everyday and enough for the rest day (Sabbath). God sustains his people on a day by day basis. Can you see that this demands trust from the people’s point of view? They are not to take more than the allotted amount of bread (manna) or Quail – only enough for daily need. The manna will not store – except on Friday afternoon when it will be OK overnight for the Rest day.


5. For the most part, the people trusted God’s daily provision and his Sabbath Day food. Both took trust – trust that the Lord would provide what he promised and that there would be enough for his requirement to rest together with him on the Sabbath.


6. Some people could not trust God on this daily basis. They decided to take control of their life and needs by gathering more then was needed and trying o store up for themselves more then enough, “just in case”. Just in case? Just in case God could not be trusted and did not follow through on his daily provision. Greed is lack of trust in God’s provisions for us.


REFLECTIONS
• This reality of God testing his people’s trust of him is an ongoing stream in the bible. In Deuteronomy 8, we are told later by Moses that this whole Manna experience was a teaching thing. Through this daily provision of food for the journey, his people learnt that no human being or community can live only by bread, but actually, we can only truly live by the very Word that comes from God’s own mouth (Deuteronomy 8:3).


• In Psalm 78, the writer describes this provision by God in the form of manna as “grain of heaven” that “rained down” on the people. It was “and “food in abundance” bread of angels” (Psalm 78:24-25). Yet, in spite of this magnificent food from God himself, the people still doubted and rejected God’s nurture and sustenance. They did not believe (Psalm 78:32).


o How has the LORD been providing for you and how have you been doubting him and his promise to keep you?
o We have so much in this place. Maybe it would be easier in some ways to actually trust the Lord if we had little and were travelling in a desert in tents?
o What do you find it hard to trust God for – “things” or relationships and well-being and future?


• Have you done the “murmuring” thing against God lately? Did it lead you to want the “good old days” or just to get out of the situation asap?!


• Israel’s rejection and doubt of God was made good by the new Israel – the Messiah – Jesus Christ;


o As Israel wandered in the harsh desert for 40 years, so he entered the desert experience for 40 days where he was also put the harshest test by the Devil himself. The test was whether or not he would trust his Father and fulfil the promised plan to defeat sin and death once and for all. He did so we do (Matthew 3:15). Jesus even cited those same words of Deuteronomy 8:3, reiterating that we cannot truly live this life or our God-given calling by mere food and drink and the possessions of this world, but only by hearing every word that God speaks in his Word. The Word of God sustains our life – not anything less.


o Jesus is far more than merely an obedient Israel. He is also the new and greater Moses who has begun a new age and a new relationship between the Lord and his new people – now Israelites and non-Israelites. Moses gave the people the Law (Torah) of God and was a mediator between God and the people. Jesus gives the new LAW (Matthew 5-7 – the Sermon on the Mount) and also feeds the people in the wilderness (Matthew 14:13-21).


o Jesus is the “true Manna”, the “Bread of Heaven” (John 6:48-51). Jesus is the food from heaven himself who gives his own flesh and blood for the life of the world.


• St Paul reflects on this manna episode in the desert in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, where he holds up the people and their doubting as something not to engage in. Somehow, Jesus himself was present in the desert and was the “Rock from which they drank”.


• Paul uses this doubting moment as a warning to New Testament Christians – this is a warning not to swap God’s provision for other things in an attempt to sure one’s life up. He says “they became idolaters and engaged in immorality. His lesson is no “shun the worship of idols (1Cor 10:14) because it is impossible to partake of this bread of heaven (Jesus) at the altar and at the same time partake of demons at another table.


• The Promises and calling of the Lord is received on a daily needed basis and includes rest with him in his presence among his people. This however, can be rejected doubted and lost.


o How are we doubting God’s ability to sustain us as church and choosing to live by bread alone?
o Where do you go back to when under the pump?
o What is the Lord calling you to ignore, dismiss or reject in order to participate in the body of Christ?





Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 4

Sermon

Pentecost 13A
Sunday September 11, 2011.

Exodus: Freed to Follow
Exodus 14:19-31
19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.  

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He jammed[a] the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”

26 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward[b] it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Today’s part of this Exodus journey is for any of us who have ever tried to fight our way out of trouble or fight our way to success forgetting that The Lord is the One who fight our battles.


It is a Word for us who forget that the Lord is involved in our day, our issues, our fears, our world and all its concerns and who then try and who then try and win battles, be effective, be successful or control our circumstances to “feel better” about life.

We move from that great and dreadful night of the Passover to the first days of freedom with a huge mass of God’s people on the move out of Egypt to an unknown future. The future maybe unknown but at least it is freedom. The feeling of the people is jubilant, triumphant and hopeful. This will rapidly change to fear, doubt, complaint and back again!

Eventually even Pharaoh relents on his hard heartedness and in complete defeat and some anger and grief at the loss of his own Son (the future Pharaoh and son of Ra) and can’t wait for this troublesome people to get out of his country.

The Lord had promised that Israel would not leave empty handed from their slavery. As the Israelites quickly wrap up their meal on the move, word gets out they are out! The Egyptian locals can’t wait to see the back of Israel and in their enthusiasm give lots of stock, jewellery and things of gold and sliver.

This is Israel now as the victorious nation plundering the defeated foe. This is compensation for 400 years of slavery!


1.2 million people and all their livestock and belongings finally get going across the desert under Moses’ leadership. They are not going the short way though. We get a hint that this “little trip” up to Canaan will not be so direct or simple.


This makes sense if we keep the purpose of God in mind. He has created this nation by a promise and sustained his promise from generation to generation. he has said that this nation will have a job. It will be the chosen nation through which He will bless all nations. They need to learn how to be a nation of blessing. They will learn this in the desert. It will take a whole generations length of time (40 years). But this is all ahead for the buoyant people of God at the beginning of their victory procession out into the desert to worship the Lord on his holy mountain.


Pharaoh again changes his mind and this time there is a shift. Up until now, Pharaoh has been wanting to keep these people alive and working in his building sites etc…. But now he wants them dead, dead, dead. Eleven times in the texts before and including our text today we hear that “Pharaoh and all his horses and his chariots” pursued the Israelites. This is unbridled fury. This is road rage! The goal is no longer preservation of a slave nation but the total annihilation of a people.


Can you imagine the terror that overtakes the now not so jubilant Israelites as they feel the vibration of hooves and chariots, see the dust cloud on the horizon and then finally “Look up and see” the Egyptians coming after them at speed!


Instantly, the joy turns to terror, the victory to defeat and the faith to doubt. The doubt of Moses and “his” God comes in the form of complaint. This will be the first of many times when the people will complain against Moses and therefore doubt God. On one occasion later on they are ready to stone Moses to death!


As the feeble arms drop an the knees knock, the people are now “crying out” again as they did in slavery, and as Moses did in the little ark. Nothing seems to been achieved and nothing seems to have changed. The same old foes and fears are upon them and they fall into the same old ways of dealing with them – without faith in the Living God. Sound familiar?


To all of this fear and doubt and turning away from the Lord, Moses gives three short directives. Don’t be scared. Stand. See.


Don’t be afraid, Stand up and See.


When the old foes come and we feel like we are back where we started, we are to put fear away. We are stand at the ready like a soldier waiting for the battle and then See? What are we to see? We are to see the Lord at work – fighting our battles for us.


Israel is an army now. A victorious army on the march but they are a strange army indeed. They are the only army in history who are to not be fearful, stand at the ready and not fight! This is because they cannot win and because the Lord does their fighting for them. They need only to “be still”.


We are an army on a victory procession to life forever in the Lord. He has defeated the greater enemies of sin, evil and death itself and continues to do so as we put fear away, stand alert and watchful so we can see how the Lord fights our battles for us. We need only to be still and know that I am God, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 9.


What a strange army we are! Are you trying to win your battles without reference to the Spirit of the Risen Jesus? You will fail. Are you trying to sure up your own position among others by a show of power or craftiness. You will fail and you will not be a blessing carrier to others as your called to be. Are we trying to work our way out of trouble without faith, reference or time for God’s word to us? We are then being that wicked and adulterous generation that Jesus mentions in Matthew 12. The Jewish religious leaders come to him and ask for a “sign” or show of raw power to convince everyone that Jesus really is “from God”.


Jesus says that even the greatest show of power – the sign of Jonah – a person being dead three days in the belly of the earth like Jonah was in the belly of the whale – and then coming back to life and defeating the great enemy, death, will not be enough for sign-lookers.


Friends, power will not sustain us or bring life and blessing to us and our world. It has its place and time as we see in our text when God does one more mighty act of defeat on Pharaoh by swallowing him and his army up in the sea. Our text ends with the witness that “the people feared the Lord and put their trust in Moses, his servant”.


But how fleeting this moment of faith based on a show power would be! It would be a nano-second until doubt and unbelief and then idolatry would be back again in these same people.


Is this why the Lord eventually became a human being in Jesus Christ and why Jesus wins the final victory over our idolatry and sin and its consequence of death in the weak looking crucifixion and death of his own son?


Is this why Paul says that the good news of God’s freedom and grace poured out for all people is foolishness to people who look for signs of power to be convinced of God’s presence and will?

Is this why Paul says he proclaims Jesus Christ and him crucified, which is a stumbling block to people who are wanting a show of force to win the day?

Is this why Jesus revolutionised the Passover with his own body and blood given for the life of the world through very ordinary bread and wine and commands us to baptise people in God’s name with simple water but his powerful word and why belief and faith and joy come through hearing the Word, not by might or intellect or human strength?


Friends, it is clear in all of this first part of Exodus that we have no power and no victory over anything that really matters in life and that to face life without reference to or faith in the Word of the Lord is futile. This way of the hard heart against the Lord will end in only one way – total destruction, as it did for Pharaoh.


We are called to put fear way and trust. We are called to stand ready to be used by the Lord and see his hand at work in our day. To do anything else leads to our human idol factory getting the upper hand as we all convince ourselves that it was all our doing and that we have got to make this thing work and that we really are the key players in what we face. No, the Lord is always the key player. He is the beginning and the end, the Lord of all lords and the one who does our fighting for us in places we don’t even know about – “principalities and powers”, as Paul calls them.


How sweet it is to be in the Lord’s victory procession and on his holy mountain as we worship in his presence and where he gives us the bread of life – his Word for the journey with him.


Don’t be afraid of what you have to do or have to stop doing.


Stand at the ready with your “sword” – the Word of God in your hand.


See – see the Spirit of the risen Jesus at work in things


Be still. It is enough for today to be still and simple know in the heart that God is; that God is I AM, fighting for you and winning his victory for your body mind and spirit everyday through very ordinary looking things.


Moses and his sister Miriam penned a song after this great victory in the sea was won by the Lord on their behalf…


In your unfailing love, O Lord, you will lead the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them to your holy place.
The nations will hear and tremble…
The Lord reigns for ever and ever. (Exodus 15:13ff)


« Older posts