Category: pharaoh

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 4

BETWEEN THE TEXTS



Week 4


• 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


• As God said he would, he “passed over” the people of Israel as he struck down all first-born males of the Egyptian nation in a killer blow that paved the way for freedom from bondage to idolatry and slavery itself. (Exodus 12:29-30). Just as Moses and his people had been “crying out” to God, so now there is great “crying out” (weeping and wailing) among Egypt’s families. Just as the Pharaoh had tried to wipe out the Hebrews by that destruction of life – the killing of all infant males – so now God inflicts devastating judgement on Egypt by killing all firstborn human beings and animals.


• This does make us squirm. God seems so destructive and angry and full of wrath and “payback”.


• His judgement on unbelief and the arrogance of continued idolatry of Egypt is effective, because finally Pharaoh wants this troublesome slave labour force to “be gone”. (Exodus 12:31ff). “Leave, God, take your stuff and go!” says Pharaoh.


• God’s promise of Israel actually plundering the defeated Egyptian foe come to pass as the nation urges Israel to leave and gives the Israelites stock, jewellery, articles of silver and gold…. (12:33-36). The picture here is of a victorious army taking whatever it wants from the defeated city. Israel is now different. It is an army on the move taking plunder – but as we shall see, it is a very strange army indeed….


• 600,000 men is a lot of men. If you double that number to include women and then add their livestock and belongings etc you can imagine a huge procession of people stretching for kilometres across the desert on the way to the promised land.


• This actually is a procession – a worship/liturgical procession actually. The purpose of the salvation by God is worship, don’t forget. The reason the Israelites were to leave Egypt was to worship the Lord on his holy mountain. The victory procession has begun!


• We get extensive instructions on how to continually remember this great act of God with more Passover instructions (13:1-16).


• God does not lead the people the direct way out. He has other plans and reasons for his plans. Israel will not be journeying quickly to their new land. This will take some time. Firstly, God has that goal of making them into his holy nation through which he promises to bless the entire world. They have to be trained in their vocation as blessing bearers. In the end it will be a whole generations that will live and die in this desert training ground (“40 years”). Secondly, there is still the matter of the Pharaoh and foreign gods (idolatry) to finish off).


• We get an interesting note that the bones of Joseph, who had dies 400 years prior, were taken out of Egypt as promised by God (13:19).


• This army is on the march with special guidance and presence of God – a pillar of fire by night and a cloud during the daylight (13:20f). The point is that God himself is leading this army. He is in charge.


• We now come to the last battle scene of the Exodus. Pharaoh is hurting and this turns not just to anger but complete rage. He is going to pursue these people of death and absolutely annihilate them. Before he was trying to keep this slave labour force alive and well in their rightful place of slavery. Now he does not care. He gathers all his military forces (the texts say this no less then 11 times!). He hurtles on to wipe out these people (14:5-9)


• TERROR! The jubilant Israelites are stunned and frightened to death when they hear the sound of those horses ad soldiers, see the billowing dust ion the horizon and then finally “Look up and see” that Pharaoh and his army are coming after them at speed. (14:10)


• Now we are “crying out” again. The tables have turned again. And now we hear the first of many times in this desert journey the language of complaint. “Are you bringing us through this to kill us, God?” “Are your intentions really good, God? “Can we go back to comfortable times and what we know please?”


• To all of this doubt, self-pity, rejection of God’s name and character, Moses responds with three sharp directives: 1) Do not be afraid, 2) Stand firm, and 3) See.


o The will be a pattern of how God’s people will win the victory over all things that try to defeat them and sever their trust in the Lord.


o Amazing that there is no call to take up arms. They are put fear away and stand at the ready but not fight!


o God will fight their battles. They need only to be still and see the Lord fighting for them. This is the only army in history who will never win a fight by fighting!


• The Egyptians and all generations will know that the Lord is by the end of this final battle.


WEEK 4 Exodus 14:19-31 (TNIV)


The great deliverance ( relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)


19 Then the angel of God, who had been travelling 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 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 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.


THOUGHTS


1. This really is not a battle as such. The Lord is in complete control and in manoeuvring everything into place for a final destruction of Egypt’s gods.


2. There is some attempt at some “scientific” explanation of events. We must not forget that this is not “science” and the writers have no interest in the science or “proof” of what the Lord did. This is not an attempt to provide a complete historical explanation either. Again the writers have little interest in producing “history” texts, as we think of history. They are proclaiming the mighty acts if God in a selective historical way and they are aiming at thoughtful and intelligent proclamation to transform the reader, not just merely inform the reader.


3. This is blind rage. There is no attention to military strategy or patience. This is all our feverish rage with the goal of total annihilation of a people on the part of Pharaoh.


4. Even the Egyptian military know that they are in trouble. There is confusion and supernatural power at work against them and now they know it.


5. Pharaoh’s destruction is complete. There is no military and royalty left in Egypt for time being. Egypt has been “swept into the sea”. Interesting that this is the great fear of the modern state of Israel today. They fear that they will be “swept into the sea” by their surrounding and much more populous Arab neighbours. This causes them to “rule with an iron fist”, as they say. Interesting how the tables turn in history and in the human heart!


6. This momentous display of God’s mighty power does the trick in terms of helping the previously doubting and complaining Israelites “fear God” – at least fore the time being anyway. Wasn’t it Jesus who said, when being asked for a “sign” so that people could believe in him, that even if God raised a person from the dead in a great show of power, this would not be enough to sustain faith in Israel (Matthew 12:38). No, they will get a sign – the “sign of Jonah”. Jesus will be in the belly of the earth fro three days and then rise form the dead. If that is not enough then you are “wicked and adulterous generation” bowing down to any other idols you can find!


7. Interesting that Moses has now earned the respect of the people. Before they did not respect him. Now, by God using him to enact his salvation for his people (Moses holding up his staff over the seas etc….), Moses is closely identified with the Lord in the people’s eyes. Moses now has the Lord’s authority to act (as long as he follows the Lord’s instructions) and the respect of the people. Authority is given AND earned.


REFLECTIONS


• How do you read the biblical story – looking for scientific proof of the events described or as God speaking to you to create faith in your heart?


• Fear is a troubling thing. It can even lead to blind rage and total destruction of left unchecked. What is your number one fear? Is it fear of having weaknesses and being ignorant of important things or fear of being strong and powerful, lest you fall into Pharaoh’s way?


• Power does not seem to equate with deep and lasting faith. The flashy stuff God does has its time and place as we see here, but the “fear of the Lord” the power creates is fleeting. Is this why God uses the weak things of the world to work his powerful love and grace?


• Authority is given to Moses by God, but still has to be earned among the people. Just because you have authority given to you does not mean that you will be a person who can effectively lead those under you. It is a great mistake to use your given authority in such a way as to expect that people should do as you tell them without also winning their respect. Is this what Jesus means when he accuses the religious leaders of his day of “lording it over the people”. Is this what all “authoritarian” kings, Presidents, Governors, and Prime Ministers do? They expect to rule without having to earn respect by careful consideration and respect of their people?

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 3

Sermon

Pentecost 12A

Series: Freed to Follow Week 3

Exodus 12:1-14
The Passover



We really jump ahead from that moment of God’s Call to Moses on the mountain way over on the Sinai Peninsular to being back in Egypt at the end of a long and difficult battle between God’s freedom and Pharaoh’s continued bondage.

As we go come to our Word for today, we bump into all this business about God’s judgement on Egypt. All this talk of plagues and God’s judgement seems pretty foreign to our experience of faith. God is described and seen acting as the Warrior God. This is not what we are used to. Maybe a bit of background can help us into the Word today.

God has picked a fight with Pharaoh and the goal is worship; rest and blessing in his presence. The reason Moses is to give Pharaoh for “letting my people go” is so that they can worship the Lord. God is forming a worshipping community. He is freeing a community of people with whom he can meet and teach and bless and through which he will bless and teach all humanity.

The fight with Pharaoh is going to take some extreme measures and the victory will need to be complete, lest God just becomes a mere god of many gods in the pantheon of ancient worship. So, what about how the battle is fought….?

The order of the 10 signs, and the various animals and material God uses all have their significance…….

As we said last week, in the pantheon of hundreds of gods, Amon Ra, the sun god, is chief and his son is the Pharaoh. Pharaoh actually is the son of god. Pharaoh has to fulfil his role to ensure that his father, Ra, (the sun) rises daily from the darkness of night (underworld). If Pharaoh does his job, then the seasons happen, the Nile River floods annually and crops grow – all is well. If Pharaoh is defeated or falls asleep on the job, then all returns to chaos and darkness.

You can see why Pharaoh really cannot allow belief in any other god – especially one who claims to trump Amon Ra, like Moses is suggesting.

In 9 signs, the Lord defeats the gods of the underworld (blood of the Nile, frogs, flies), the earth (mosquitoes/gnats, cattle plague and dust into boils)and then the sky (hail, locusts, darkness across the land). Then God strikes the killer blow by wiping out the first born male generation of human beings and animals in Egypt.

The Lord’s victory is almost complete. There will still be one final blow that will wipe out Pharaoh and his army completely too. That is for next week….

This is warrior stuff and hard for us to deal with. God the mighty Lord is a warrior who fights on behalf of his people. He knows the depths of human evil and the power of evil in his creation and he acts in merciless fashion to free his people from hard service to these things.

His goal however is good service in his presence. His goal is the eventual blessing of all nations and the welcoming of all nations into his gracious presence in worship. He has to make this fledgling slave community into a nation of blessing before he can bless the whole world through them as he promised.

We pause in the story to receive detailed instructions about the foundational event through which God freed his people and the special meal that is to be enacted annually for all time – the Passover.

Our text is the detailed instruction how to order the seasons (the year) and remember this act of freedom God gave to his people the night he saved them from continued hard labour and service to the gods of Egypt.

The details say that this saving event and this holy meal come from God and his authority and power alone. This meal is all about God’s authority and power from beginning to end. It is about complete dependence on God and his saving love.

This moment is to define everything in life after it. God re-orders the year. He makes a first month of the year; the month of Nisan (no, not a car!) or “Abid”. It is in early spring time in the northern hemisphere – very fitting. This is a new year, a new life, a new hope and way of living. It is around March/April – based on the lunar cycle (full moon).

This special meal is to be enacted by all people in all families. It is to be taught to the children over and over again, so important and foundational it is.

We hear a little later on……(Exodus 12:26-27)

When your children ask you what you mean by this observance, just tell them that we are remembering the night when Yahweh passed over all the Israelite houses. That’s when we became God’s liberated people.

It is a holy meal that deserves only the very best. Some time has to be spent selecting a year old lamb or kid. The animal sacrificed for the meal must be without any defects or spots or “blemish”: Only the best for a holy God of freedom. He demands our best – our first fruits not our second best. He is holy and invites us to share in his holiness and love. Only our best offering will be what is required in our relationship with the Lord.

Nothing at all is to be wasted. If there is not enough people in your own house to finish the whole lamb, then you need to invite the friends and family over. This is a holy meal that cannot be left for other purposes.

This holy event done solely by a holy God (no human power involved) which has a specially chosen animal to be sacrificed could so easily be abused if any of the holy sacrificed animal was left over. Human beings have an idol factory in their soul and God’s people are so prone to serve idols of their own making with anything that looks or sounds holy. No, nothing is to be left. The people can only serve one God – the Lord, I AM.

This meal must be eaten on the run – literally. God is on the move during this meal. He is at work and his work is done for a people that are on the move – or soon will be – after this meal. The meal is for the run. The meal is strength for the journey. It is not a meal for being only settled and comfortable or to bask in too much. It is meal for life and change, and activity and the journey in which God’s people travel with him.

The blood of the Lamb is the centre of the meal, along with the bread that does not have yeast in it. There is no time to bake bread that rises. Again, this is a meal on the move.

The blood is to be used for something special – It is to be painted on the door frames of the house, as a sign of something. The blood is sign first to the people. God is freeing you through this meal. He is freeing you from more hard labour to other gods and idols. He is saving you from the darkness that surrounds human idolatry and sin. Through the blood of the Lamb he is winning this victory over chaos and evil “for you”.

Yes, those words, “for you” resound in our ears when we share a meal. “Given and shed for you” we hear……

The blood of the lamb is also a sign to God; a sign post to him to “Passover” and not exercise his judgement of sin on this family. It is a sign post to God to let this family live when it really deserves God’s judgement of death.

Can any of us really know what amazing gifts the Lord gives us in this simple meal we share if we don’t hear about this Passover meal? The depth of God’s power and grace shine as we hold this Passover night with “the night Jesus was betrayed…”.

Passover and Lord’s Supper

It was at a Passover celebration that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. This meal too means liberation for all who partake, freedom from sin, freedom from the world, and freedom from all demonic powers.

As the Lord’s own Supper, it is open to all the Lord invites, all the baptized, who remember that Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. The blood of the host at this banquet means that God will pass over the sins of all who partake in repentance and faith.

This meal says something. As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. The infinite One meets us in the finite elements: bread and wine.

At the Old Testament Passover, the narrator said: When your children ask you what you mean by this observance, just tell them that we are remembering the night when Yahweh passed over all the Israelite houses (Exodus 12:26-27). That’s when we became God’s liberated people. And so at our Christian Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, we tell each other, especially our children, just why we celebrate this little banquet so frequently. It is not blood on our doorposts, but the bread and the wine, the body and blood of Jesus that says “You are free!” It’s so real you can taste it.

All the baptized are welcome here — every age, every class, every gender, every race, sinners included. In fact, sinners — long-time member sinners or new to the faith sinners — are invited to be first in line.

Our Eucharist (or “Meal of Thanksgiving”) catches us on the fly, between Saturday and Monday. Our meal in Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, is a meal on the move. It is strength for the journey of faith and love. It is to be lived out, not hogged and kept for personal comfort only. It’s a communal meal for us all and those who don’t know the Lord yet.

Our stay at the table is short term. It is not once a year anymore but all the time now. Jesus has kind of sped things up and the Spirit quickens us regularly for our spiritual service to the Lord as we bear witness to his gifts of grace and love.

Our stay is short but often, and we are soon on our way back into our daily life where we live out our freedom, for others.

Praise the Lord for his passing over of our idolatry and hard hearts and his giving of life and freedom in their place – all in the body and blood of Jesus, the true Passover Lamb – the host of this holy meal and the meal itself – all God, from beginning to end.

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 3

BETWEEN THE TEXTS


Week 3



• We jump forward quite a lot this week moving from Exodus 3 to 12. A lot happens in between our selected reading!

• 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 their vocation of being a blessing to the whole world.



Chapter 5: Moses finally responds to God’s call (chapter 3), teams up with Aaron and gets to Egypt where he finally meets Pharaoh. It does not go well! It looks like this great mission has failed before getting off the ground as Pharaoh, with a very hard heart against Moses and Aaron’s God (Yahweh), hardens up the hard labour of the slave class masses. Moses’ people, as a direct result of his demand to Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go out into the desert to “serve” their God in a festival, demands that the slave labour force now are to make bricks without the usual supply of straw. They have to gather their own straw from wherever they can find it.


• When the slave leaders protest, Pharaoh makes things even tougher. They have to make their same quota of bricks without any straw at all! You can see why the people are not exactly diving in to believe in Moses of follow him!


• But, God has the plan. This is God the Commander-in Chief and mighty warrior getting ready to annihilate other gods in a show of complete dominance and power. Chapter 7:1-6 shows the plan in a nutshell.


• Then we get to the “signs and wonders”, a few of which are in the form a “plagues” of various things. Here’s how it works…


The gods of Egypt:



o Three levels of gods in a pantheon of 100’s of gods.


o Chief god, Amon Ra – Sun God.


o The sun makes light and its rising and setting brings order to creation


o The sun god takes an ordered journey everyday. The sun sinks into the underworld (night time) every day and there is a constant battle between Ra and Sem, the chief god of the underworld. Ra gains the vistory every day and rises again everyday.


o Pharaoh is Ra’s incarnate son on earth who has to perform various rituals daily to assist his “father” Ra in this ongoing battle to keep chaos and evil at bay, so that prosperity and life continue…


o Because Egypt lives on the waters of the Nile and did not know where this great water came from (No one did until the 19th century!), it was believed to come from the underworld. The Nile is a flooding river. Every year it floods and provided excellent flood plain conditions for crops. The underworld from where the water comes must be continually held back/defeated so that the floods come and life goes on.


o Animals are symbols of these deities at work

• The signs the God performs are set in this belief system. His defeat must be total and completely outside this system of belief, lest he just be seen as one of the many gods!



Pharaoh is a god. He sees himself that way and his people see him this way. He must be destroyed for sake of God’s people and God’s plan to use this holy nation he has created to bring HIS blessing and life to all nations (including Egypt!)


Chapter 5:1-12:36 is the contest between the Lord and Pharaoh


SIGNS 1-3: Defeat of the powers of the underworld: Blood of the Nile, Frogs, Flies – all powers of the underworld in Egyptian thinking. The first two signs are copied by the sorcerers of Egypt but the third (the flies) acknowledged as being by the hand of Israel’s God. (8:16-19). Interesting that frogs were regarded in the pantheon of gods as being the gods of protecting women in childbirth – remember what Pharaoh did to Moses’ generation? Also interesting – this first defeat shows God’s power over magic, occult and dark spirits.


SIGNS 4-6: Defeat of the powers of the earth: Mosquitoes/gnats, cattle plague and dust into boils for all living creatures (yuk!). Interesting that the plague of flies shows the first separation between what happens to Egyptians and Hebrews. (read 8:20-24)


SIGNS 7-9: Defeat of the powers of the sky: Hail, Locusts Darkness across the land (no light – think about Amon Ra and Pharaoh and their place/roles….). In the plague of Hail, Pharaoh actually seeks forgiveness (9:27-25) and ask Moses to intercede for him to the Lord. Pharaoh does this again in the plague of locusts (the great threat of all ancient – and modern- food producers!). But he continues to “harden his heart”….


THE KNOCKOUT BLOW: The death of all the firstborn of Egypt (11:1-12:36). Life in Egypt is cut off and disrupted. Amon Ra and his son have failed. They have been defeated by a greater God. Pharaoh fulfils God’s promise to let the Israelite go – with plenty of plunder (silver and gold and livestock etc….) and even ask Moses to bless him. Moses refuses to bless Pharaoh. The nation that is about to be freed and trained how to fulfil their vocation of being blessing carriers of blessing to all nations has no place for any other God and any other life than that lived in Yahweh’s blessing and life.

WEEK 3 Exodus 12:1-14 (TNIV)



The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread ( numbers relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)

1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbour, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it.


11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.


12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.


14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance.





THOUGHTS



1. This is Israel’ great moment of salvation. It is THE event that shapes this new community of God and will do for all generations of faith.


2. You will notice our text is not the actual event. That is described after our text in 12:29-39. There is much to say about this event – before and after it! You can tell that it is a big deal by the amount of instruction, detail and time it takes to tell it how it is to be told – not just once, but in every generation of Hebrew people (up until now!).


3. The Month is the month of Nisan (no, not a car!) or “Abid”. It is in early spring time in the northern hemisphere – very fitting. It is around arch April – based on the lunar cycle (full moon).


4. It is our Easter time because the first Christian made the link between The resurrection of Jesus, God’s Son and his salvation and this event of Passover. Jesus established the Lord’s Supper on the night of the Passover. He was crucified during the festival of the Passover. He proclaimed himself to be “the true Passover lamb that was slaughtered for the life of the world…”


5. It is a holy meal in which nothing is to be wasted and nothing is to be done by one’s own authority. It is all God’s authority and power from beginning to end. It is about complete dependence on God and his saving love.


6. Only the best will do for this God of all power and love. He demands our best – our first fruits not our second best. He is holy and invites us to share in his holiness and love. Only our best offering will be what is required in our relationship with the Lord.


7. Blood is life in ancient thinking. No one has the authority to take another person’s blood/life – only the Lord and he does this for the freedom and love of his people as he defeats all evil. The links with Jesus and his teaching and life are endless. His blood is the once-for-all sacrifice for all sin of all time. He shed his blood on our behalf thereby freeing us from the wrath of God against all sin, chaos (disorder) and darkness. His blood protects as it did on the doorframes of their houses. His blood is that which we drink and it is healing, forgiveness and life for us from God. Jesus revolutionises this ancient meal that has held a nation together through thick and thin for thousands of years by making himself not only the priest of this meal but the actual meal – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!





REFLECTIONS



The Lord’s Supper is our Passover – not once a year but all the time. Do you think you regard the Lord’s Supper in this way?


• There is no room for gods when it comes to living in the Lord’s grace and power. A “idol” is anything we cling to for our well-being other than the Lord. Idols can be anything. See how receiving Jesus’ body and blood in simple repentance and faith in HIS blood and the life he gives, smashes our idols and cleanses our hearts and makes us holy before the Lord?


• Have you ever made these kinds of links with Easter? See how Easter is a deeply significant and timeless gift of the Lord for a world in need; so much more than a long weekend! So much worth entering into to receive the Lord’s blessing for our life and celebrating who we are as his saved and free people…..





Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 2

BETWEEN THE TEXTS

• 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 their vocation of being a blessing to the whole world.


• As we go through Exodus, we are following the Common Lectionary (or selection of Bible readings) that most mainline Christian denominations also follow. Hearing the Word as set down in the three year lectionary used globally, is one of the way we express Oneness (or the “catholic” – “universal” nature of God’s church. Our schedule of bible passages in Exodus has lots of bible texts in between each one! So it is an important to get what happens prior to our text each week.


• A very important thing happens before our text for this week begins. Read Ch 2:11-25.


• verse 11: Moses obviously grows up to be a young man. He grows up in the royal palace with all its privilege, and yet it seems that he has learnt or sensed that he is actually one of the ethnic minority population called “the Hebrews”. He is not an Egyptian.


• He does two things that show a certain passion and concern for the plight of his people. He first “watches” their “hard labour”. Moses is seeing what Pharaoh’s daughter saw and heard when she saw Moses in the ark and heard his crying and “was moved”.


• Both things Moses does are done in secret – at least he thinks they are. “He looks this way and that” checking to see if anyone is seeing him.


• The issue is really about authority. It is clear that when he kills the Egyptian slave master who is beating a Hebrew and then when he tries to settle a dispute between two of his countrymen, he has no authority. One of the two Hebrews who are beating each other up pop that authority question (verse “Who made you ruler and judge over us?” asks the Hebrew slave. And then in direct challenge to his actions, “Are you thinking of killing me like you did that Egyptian the other day?” Moses is found out and very scared.


• Pharaoh quickly turns on this adopted son of his daughter. But, as will become more and more apparent, Pharaoh’s attempts to deal with these Hebrews and their God will become less and less effective!


• Everything speeds up and is compressed together. Moses flees across the huge desert, somehow survived on the land way over in Midian and sits down by a well” (verse 15).


• Verse 19: This “one who was drawn from the water” now “draws water for some women at the well.


• He helps some women at the well (wells are always places of meeting in the desert communities). he meets a man who seems to have two names. here he is called “Reuel” and in other places he is called Jethro. He agrees to arranged marriage with one of Jethro’s seven daughters, Zipporah.


• “Zipporah” in Hebrew means “one who tweets”. Maybe she was a frequent Tweeter user!


• They have a son, Gershom, which means “alien there”. Maybe Moses is no getting as far away as he can from his Egyptian upbringing. After all, the king did try to kill him!


• Verse: 23-25: Again we hear of this crying out and now God seeing and hearing and “being concerned” about them. he is about to show his concern and do something about it…….


WEEK 2 Exodus 3:1-15 (TNIV)


The Calling of Moses (1 numbers relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)
1 Now Moses was tending the flock 1of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness 2and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire3 from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see 4this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”



4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”


And Moses said, “Here I am.”

5 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.


7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt 6. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 7


12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship8 God on this mountain.”


13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ 9Then what shall I tell them?”


14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. 10 This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”



15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation. 11
THOUGHTS
1. It is important to note that Moses is a shepherd. This is his vocation at the time of his calling. He will continue to be a shepherd – not of sheep, but of God’s people. The word “Pastor” come from the Latin word meaning “shepherd. Pastors are essentially shepherds of congregations.

2. The location of this burning bush (Mount Horeb or Sinai) moment is not known for sure, but is seems that it might have been on the western side of the Sinai Peninsular.


3. Flames: This is a very common way that the biblical writers try and give a visual picture of God’s presence. It happens again in Exod 19:18 when the glory/presence of God descends upon the same mountain and gives the 10 commandments. Later on in the desert journey, a pillar of fire will guide the community at night time. We New Testament people make a link with Pentecost Sunday and the “tongues of fire”.


4. Moses has “seen” God’s people in pain and now he wants to “see” this great sight. He will see the fire and see some other things as well! Note that God then “sees” Moses coming up the mountain. Interesting that the man who wants to discover something has now become the discovered one by God! This self-appointed shepherd who lacked authority to fulfil his calling will now receive God’s authority and power for the humanly impossible calling he will no be given!


5. Now we have the famous moment of God’s call and giving of the most precious gift he ever gave his people. Moses is given his commission to shepherd Israel in three ways;


o God is present: Moses is made aware of this (take off the sandals on holy ground)


o He is informed that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – God is a known God with a history of promises to and blessing of and saving people.


o God announced his intentions. Moses hears what God is wanting to do through him – save his people.


6. Again we hear for the third time since Exodus began that God has seen and understands the plight of his suffering people (they are “crying out” – like Moses in the ark). He is now going to “come down” with one intention – RESCUE. Pharaoh’s daughter was indeed a sign of God’s rescue when she found Moses.


7. Moses does not receive his calling well. He objects – three times in all. He knows he needs God’s authority and power to do this humanly impossible thing called shepherding God’s people! First he asks “Who am I” for this task. Answer: A nobody! God responds with a promise of assurance. “I will be with you”.


8. This calling and this giving of God’s name is all about Worship. Who will God’s people serve/worship? They are doing “hard service/labour” to pharaoh and the gods of Egypt and it is killing them. God is going to act to gather them into his presence in a new way so that they can serve/worship him. The service of God will be rest, not slavery. God does the giving and the blessing and the healing in worship p- not the people. They attend to worship not to appease the Lord, but to receive from him the good things he promises. in this way they “rest in his presence” as he rested from his labour on the seventh day.


9. Moses does not seem convinced! He asks the obvious question of God. Moses has asked, “Who am I”. Now he asks, “Who are you”!


10. Now comes the giving of the greatest gift that God ever gave to human beings besides their very existence. “I AM WHO I AM”, or “I AM WHO I WILL BE” is God’s personal name (YHWH: in English)


o It has never been uttered before and by giving Moses his personal name, God ushers in a whole new era of relationship intimacy with humanity.


o God has many names in Old Testament: El Elyon – God Most High, El Roi – God who sees me, El Shaddai – God Almighty, El Olam – God Everlasting,


o By this personal name (YHWH – Yahweh), Moses and human being will have unprecedented access to his presence and being.


o This name is really as mystery. It reveals God in a new personal way, but it also conceals God. God is still God but closer. It is untranslatable and in Hebrew it is unpronounceable. It has four letters and has been called the “Tetragrammaton” (four letters). It would become the holiest and most guarded name and the name to only be used under very strict ritual/worship conditions for Jewish people.


o This is a huge risk for God. Once his gives his personal name he is open to more personal abuse. It is like us giving our name to a stranger. Once it is done, we are more known – and open to our name being abused. Same with God.


o By this name Moses will have authority to save and shepherd God’s chosen and blessed people.


o In most English translation bible, this name, in English “Yahweh”, is usually printed “LORD”.


o Moses still objects a little after our text. Moses says he cannot speak well enough. God fixes this my telling him have his brother, Aaron, as a spokesman for him in his calling (Exod 4:1ff). God also gives him the first part of the program of “sign and wonders” that Gods will employ to begin the battle Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt.


11. God will never withdraw this special name, no matter how much it is abused. he will never deny personal access to his presence for his faithful people. In New Testament terms, the name YHWH is translated “Kyrios” (my Lord). This is name by which people address Jesus. “Lord, have mercy on me”, (“Kyrie, eleison”). In John’s gospel, jesus says the seven great “IAM” statements – I AM the God Shepherd, I AM the gate for the sheep, I AM the Brad of Life, I AM the way the truth and the life…..

REFLECTIONS
• We are drawn out of the water in baptism. Baptism is our commissioning as God’s shepherds for others – all with different vocations, families and communities in which to be God’s name bearers for others.



• We are all priests in the sense that we have access to God’s very presence by his grace and mercy. We pray for people to God on their behalf. This is why on Sunday we pray ”The Prayer of the Church”. Here we actually perform a public service in praying for the world in God’s gracious presence.


• Worship of any god other than YHWH – or Jesus Christ the LORD, kills people, enslaves people and destroys relationship with God and each other.


• Worship is primarily an act of the Lord to which we respond in prayer, thanks and praise – not the other way around. “Liturgy” is a word the New Testament writers chose from their culture to express what they believed was going on when we gathered in God’s presence around the Word and the Holy Meal. “Liturgy” means “public work”, or “work of the people”. We respond to God’s good gifts of forgiveness, life, teaching, guidance, and healing by doing our public work – never only for ourselves but for the whole world and for others present.


• With this biblical view of worship, worship can then become what it was established to be by God – REST!


• It is no merely human thing to be called and commissioned by the Lord for service in his church or his world. Moses objects three times. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Jonah, and Jesus himself asked for their calling to be taken from them. Someone once said that anyone who willingly wants to lead God’s people is either full of themselves or just plain unaware of what God is asking them to do!


• But God promises to be with the ones he calls. He gives them his own personal name, which means access to his blessing, power, wisdom and hope to fulfil their calling.


Are you resisting God’s call to serve at the moment? What are your fears? What are your excuses?


Are you resting in God’s personal presence in worship or are you labouring in some kind of slavery in worship? Why?

When you come to worship, is it more about how well you do stuff for God, or more about letting God give you what he wants to give you?

How are you representing the needs of your family and friends before the Lord and seeking his blessing and healing for them in prayer – in worship and through the day? You are a priest like Moses by faith in Jesus and by virtue of your baptism – your commissioning day. What might it mean to be a member of the “priesthood of all believers – practically?


Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 1

Sermon, Pentecost 10A
Sunday August 21st, 2011.
Ocean Forest
the exodus journey week 1

So, we begin this exodus journey and yet this journey comes from what has happened before. We know from the account of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph that God’s presence and promise has been under huge threat because of human weakness, idolatry and sin, and yet, by God’s determination and grace, has prevailed – at least for now.

We hear in the opening verses of this Exodus…..



1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4 Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. 5 The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy[a] in all; Joseph was already in Egypt.

6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, 7 but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.

God’s blessing of his people; his promise to Abraham of a great nation of descendants, a great name among the nations and a land of blessing in which to live is happening despite generations living and dying in between the life of Jacob and Joseph and this new beginning about to happen.


The Israelites are a minority group within Egypt. They have bred like rabbits! Verse 8, “Now there arose a new king in Egypt….” may jump as much four centuries. It seems the blessed nation have been fruitful and multiplied as God had originally commanded the first human beings to do (Genesis 1 and 2). This new King see a threat in this now huge ethnic minority group. They look like they might soon take over the country!


This is a fear-filled thing. I hear people saying things about what is happening in Australia that betray this kind of fear of foreigners. “The Chinese will take us over. The Indonesians will take over one day. The boat people will flood us and use up our valuable resources……”. Was it Pauline Hansen who gave voice to that fear a decade ago when she said “the Asians are taking us over….Asians out….”? A quick look at history will tell you that these kinds of fears have always been around. They have often led to great evil. Fear does that.

In this scene, the Israelites are almost like a plague! “They became exceedingly numerous so that the land was filled with them”, we hear. They are like mosquitoes at a BBQ, flies at a picnic, Fremantle Dockers supporters at the footy!

The Egyptian monarchy is worried for another reason besides being taken over from within. What if one of their competing neighbours like the Babylonians, Syrians, Assyrians etc… decide to take us on and enlist the support of this huge group of people who may or may not have any loyalty to us when push comes to shove? Egypt would be serious peril.

So, the king decides to deal “shrewdly” with this problem people. The plan is to oppress a whole people – to force them into slavery and use them as objects for the building of a kingdom. People become objects to be bought, sold, used, abused and treated much lower than the pinnacle of all creation – human beings.

Of course, those us who live in the top 10% of the wealthiest people in the world have little idea about what this really is. However, for anyone who has come close to poverty and/or any oppressive regime, the full force of this oppression will make more sense. The rest of us can only imagine…… no status, no job, no goals, no control over my day, no point thinking beyond today because it may be your last. Seeing your family brutalised on a daily basis. Seeing the places that you used to enjoy now out of reach and watching all the people you used to know carry on as if you were not even there. This is a complete removal of privilege and plunge into abuse, hatred, racial vilification, death and fear.

It is interesting though. Egypt is also full of fear (1:10). As the oppressors dehumanise others and violate their family and communal life, they themselves become sub human. Once this pattern of fear and oppression has been established, it brings in an entire way of life and behaviour for those caught up in it. Both become lost.


That terrible human descent into death now shows itself again. Just as it was for Joseph and his brothers, fear, then jealousy, then hatred and then physical and communal violence takes shape in this now fearful country. The Egyptians fear the Israelite’s capacity to threaten their way of life. They are very jealous of the apparent unstoppable blessing they seem to have as they “fill the land”. This “shrewd” plan to stop their increase and snuff out their blessed life does not work. Even though the Israelites were mistreated, their families grew larger, and they took over more land. “Because of this, the Egyptians hated them worse than before…”(Exod 1:12). Jealousy has given way to hatred – not just in theory but now actually done on a daily basis across the country – wherever Egyptians and Israelites live in the same place.

We can tell what is next; violence and death. “Kill all the baby boys” commands the fearful and inhumane Pharaoh. This has been a final step in the snuffing out a minority group for many a regime. It is a final desperate measure to kill off a threat. We have a very well known account of such a measure in the New Testament, as the paranoid King Herod the Great command the same when he suspects the promised Jewish Messiah has been born. We hear that every Christmas.

We then hear this account of very crafty mid-wives who commit an act of civil disobedience by directly disobeying the law of the land (1:15-21). The reason given for their act of rebellion in an oppressive regime is faithfulness to God (v17). They took their life in their own hands as they delivered new life everyday for the sake of obeying the God of life who gives life. He is also the God who alone has the authority as creator and giver of life to take life away.

This gets me thinking about Christian civil disobedience. When is it faithful to the Lord to directly disobey civil law? In the 70’s in Latin America a whole movement and theology came into being called “Liberation theology” where many Christians even went to the extent of taking up arms against brutal military regimes with leaders like Pinochet.

Here in comfortable and peaceful Western democracy, we hope it never comes to this. All we can do is thank God for his gift of justice and legal system and a shared will to keep it that way; even to actively support and work for justice and “pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honour God as St Paul urges us” (1Timothy 2:2).

All through this descent into human hatred, oppression and murder, all driven by fear, God is at work. It is so ironic that Pharaoh is actually being an instrument of God’s creative work. The blessing, multiplying and fruitfulness does not stop. Now God’s saving work is taking shape. We come to this most famous and wonderful little account of God’s man for the moment – Moses.

Again the Israelite midwives, who are actually experts in handling God’s fruitful blessing when you think about it, outdo the murderous Pharaoh by keeping another one of their precious baby boys and ensuring that he lives through this horrible time.

How poignant it is to read that this desperate woman who somehow managed to have her son and then hide him for a few months as soldiers come house to house on a daily basis and take boys from their mothers arms and murder them, now places her precious boy in an ark. This word is so seldom used in the entire Old Testament. Here we are meant to remember that other “ark” of Noah and God’s saving work in those days. Humanity was so lost. We had descended even further into sin and chaos that God acts to bring order and life back to his creation. he does this my placing Noah and the remnant of his creation in that ark.

Later on in Exodus, we will hear that those foundational directives on how to faithfully live with the Lord and his community – the 10 Commandments – will also be placed in an “ark” – the Ark of the Covenant. Precious things go inside arks. Saving things go inside arks. Moses is now inside an ark. The hope of God’s saving love is in that ark.

And then we really come to the crescendo of this whole beginning account. It is amazing that of all people to give a sign of what God is going to do it should be an Egyptian – and Pharaoh’s own daughter at that! What does she do?

“…….she saw the baby and felt sorry for him because he was crying…”(2:6). Pharaoh’s daughter does three things in response to one thing. The one thing is crying. The three things are “seeing” and hearing (implied) and “feeling sorry” for this one crying.

“Feeling sorry” for him? In English that seems a bit week. The word for a woman’s womb in Hebrew is the root of this verb. This woman who has a womb experiences a womb wrenching compassion for this child who has just come from another woman’s womb. The compassion is of the deepest kind – from the womb. it is that compassion that comes from the human spirit – that women experience in pregnancy, childbirth and when new life is in infancy.

This “gutted” woman is a precursor to more words from God that will come next week. Here, Pharaoh’s daughter “sees” and hears and has deep compassion because the boy is crying.

 

“Crying”: This is the situation of God’s people, according to God. They are “crying”. They are weeping in this terror in which they live. Labour, hard labour, misery, cruelty, mistreated – this is what is creating this weeping and crying out for salvation, for hope, for and end to it all.

Friends, as we leave it there, we can journey on knowing that we travel with a God who sees, hears and has compassion on our crying – whatever it is.

We can also trust that our God creates good out of evil and frustrated the working of fear, oppression and hatred.

We can also trust that our God is very happy to work with little things and little people – people like midwives, daughters, grieving mothers, crying babies and little “arks”. God works through these things to deal with the fear and trouble we as his people and we as part of his troubled world face.

In this little ark is the hope of God’s people and his promises acting in the world. His fellow Hebrew babies were thrown into the water of the Nile. But God ensured that this child of promise was “drawn out of the water” of the Nile. God undoes this horrible command of a king who thinks he is bigger than God.


His people will soon be “drawn out of the water” as they pass through that Sea of Reeds on dry ground and be born again as God’s people of blessing.

We have been drawn out of the water at baptism. Baptism was our Red Sea. It was us being drawn out of certain death to new life and blessing in Christ.

We walk this journey as God’s water people – people of hope. people in the ark or the boat of the church. We sit in the Nave of the church – we travel in God’s presence into the desert way of Jesus – the way of his cross, the way of God’s power revealed in the ordinary and seemingly weak things of the world.

God is on the move. He see, he hears, he is compassion and he is drawing us out into new hope and life in these weeks ahead. See him. Hear him. Cry out to him. Amen



Week 1 Exodus 1:8-2:10

WEEK 1 Exodus 1:8-2:10 (TNIV)

8 Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”

11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labour, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labour in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labour the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.
15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”
19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”
20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
THOUGHTS
1. God’s blessing of the Israelites is uncontrollable. Pharaoh cannot control it and is threatened by their obvious blessed status. They are breeding like rabbits! This for ancient people is the sign of blessing – children, population growth, and fertility.

 

2. Fertility is the goal of worshipping the gods of Egypt. Pharaoh carries out his rituals and exercises his divine reign to secure the blessing of fertility for the people. But here, the God of the Hebrews is already outdoing the gods of Egypt. They are more blessed than the local Egyptians. This is a major threat – economic, security and religious.

 

3. There is a double meaning of all this talk of “labour” or work” In Hebrew, this word can also be used for the “work” or worshipping God (liturgy). Israel’s labour here is hard, destructive and unjust because it is done for a foreign god. God will turn their hard labour into rest, joy and blessing when they “work” for him and with him in their worship (working) life.

 

4. Interesting that the Hebrew midwives enact civil disobedience. They deliberately defy the law of the land. When is it OK to do this Christians?

 

5. Pharaoh has to act in every increasing violence – killing baby boys – halting this divine power the Hebrews seem to posses – but God is on to it. A war is brewing of cosmic proportions.

 

The Birth of Moses (Ch 2)

1 Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket (“ark”) among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”
8 “Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

 

THOUGHTS
1. God is doing something new. A new hope rises in the carnage of dead baby boys. A baby boy escapes the evil of Pharaoh. This boy will the first of a new age. He is from the tribe of Levi – the priestly tribe. He will be the priest of Israel who will have direct access to God on the people’s behalf and vice-versa.
2. The baby is placed in an ark. Genesis 6:14 and Noah’s ark comes to mind. Just as God saved a remnant of humanity and living things in an ark, now he is doing the same with his promise to Abraham. Later the guidelines for knowing God as a community (10 Commandments) will also be places in the ark of the covenant. Through his Word he will continually save people so they can know him and live with him.

3. Pharaoh’s daughter is a pre-cursor to God himself here. She hears the cry of this baby. She is moved with pity and shows mercy and compassion in saving the baby from annihilation. God will also see and feel the pain of his people an act (next week).

 

4. Moses is a forward sign of this new nation of God who will also be drawn from the water and even a sign of the promised Messiah who will be baptised by John and command his church to baptise the world in his name (Matthew 28)

REFLECTIONS
  • We are drawn out of the water in baptism.
  • We have been snatched from the hand of the evil one and our own sinfulness and places in the ark – the place of God’s presence and protection and life.
  • Christians have often used this boat kind of imagery to name places of worship. Where the people gather is the nave – the body of the ship. Often church architecture has included vaulted ceiling of stone or timber – depicting an upside down boat or ark. What does all that mean for you?
  • Pharaoh kills the sons of the Israelite, thereby picking a fight with the God of the Israelites. The final “plague” or sign will be the undoing of Pharaoh. God the Warrior will fight for his covenant with Abraham – blessing of a nation, a name and a land of blessing.
  • Interesting that God uses another Egyptian to rescue his chosen special leader, Moses. Is this a show of God’s craftiness and intelligence and power?
  • This new nation will not be founded with a land, known leader, political system. It will be founded by the direct action of a holy and all-powerful God and so, be a unique, specially chosen and formed community of God in the world with a special task – to be the means through which God deals with the sin of human beings and gives his blessing of life to all nations.
How have you been snatched from hard labour to idols and entered the rest and blessing of living in God’s blessing?
 

Would there ever be a reason why you would practice civil disobedience?

Has God heard your cries and acted to save you in a situation?

What is your life founded on: a world view, a family, a teaching, ……?

 

My spirit revived!

Sermon

Pentecost 9A, Sunday August 14, 2011.
Ocean Forest


My spirit revived!

WHAT I NOTICED IN THE TEXT

This is the final scene in a long story of pain for a family and a father. The author takes heaps of time to tell the story and builds to this final scene of reconciliation and summary of all that has happened to this family and this fledgling nation, Israel.

There is huge emotion on display in this text – long held hopes for true reconciliation with those who have hurt you bring that out.

Hindsight – being able to survey the past and what has happened and see how God has shaped your life and actually used the troubling and testing events and even the great wrongs that have been done to you. Joseph says that it was God that actually sent him to Egypt to save a nation, not a band of jealous, angry brothers bent on destruction. God triumphs over destruction of life and turns it around for the preservation of life.

Walking backwards into the future. That is the way the Hebrew mind evident in the Old testament works, as we see it here very clearly. The only indication of the future is the less than clear world of dreams. Joseph had dreams, the prison mates had dreams and Pharaoh had dreams – even when interpreted by Joseph, they are vague at best. But there is absolute clarity about God’s promise to Abraham, what has happened to Isaac and Jacob, and now Joseph. “Gods meant it for good” concludes Joseph. He always does it seems.

Reconciliation: Reconciliation is an opportunity to bring glory to God ad here Joseph gives God all the glory. Reconciliation demands that we get the log out of our own eye. The brothers seemed to have done this as they lived with the guilt of what they done and were now ready to enter reconciliation because they had admitted their wrong. The two waring parties were now ready to be gently (or not so gently!) restored and to then go and live in this newly restored relationship.

WORD
What a scene this bible text reveals! It is the scene of a family restored, a father revived and a hope rising up again. It is a scene of forgiveness triumphing over all of that harmful stuff we have mentioned in these weeks as we have followed the story of Jacob – the “winning struggler” and God’s promise of blessing through him.

This emotional reconciliation account is the crescendo to a beautifully told story which explains how it is that the promise to Abraham to be the head of a large nation of descendants blessed by God came to be. Joseph’s story is the last of four great stories of four great people in the book of Genesis – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and now within Jacob’s story – Joseph, his favoured son.


Prayer: O Jesus, every moment in my heart and my ear, speak to us in this word that we hear.


So much has happened to get to this great scene of brothers reconciling after years of hatred, jealousy, lies and guilt. Let’s do a quick catch up….


Jacob favoured this young son, Joseph and that brought into being it inevitable result – jealousy, hatred and physical and emotional harm to the favourite among his 11 brothers. Last week we heard how they took their opportunity to get rid of the young “dreamer” who had these dreams about being the dominant and blessed one among all his brothers. They throw him into a dark pit, but eventually then sell him as a slave to travelling traders who head to Egypt.


Jacob, now called “Israel” by God, the “struggling winner”, is inconsolable with grief and loss. Joseph, the blessed one of God, ends up in Egypt, and is bought from the spice traders who bought him from the 11 brothers by a man named Potiphar. This man is a royal official of some type. So, Joseph land on his feet, really. This is God’s doing it says. “The Lord was with Joseph….” we hear at various intervals in this wonderfully told story of God’s blessing.

Potiphar could see that Joseph was a blessed and gifted man of some divine god, so he hands over the running of his own substantial household to Joseph. Potiphar’s wife notices Joseph is a good catch and makes a pass at him! Joseph has some character and some integrity about him. He rejects the offer and keeps on doing so for some time. Eventually the jilted woman sets Joseph up. Potiphar gets Joseph thrown in prison.

It must have been a tricky thing to serve Pharaoh wine and bake his bread because for some minor mistake, the cupbearer and the baker to the King end up in prison with Joseph! This puts a new spin on Masterchef!!

In time Joseph also proves himself to be an excellent prison administrator! He ends up being given that role. He is a blessed and talented man of faith.

Joseph, the dreamer, actually is a dream interpreter. He can see things others can’t. Not only does he impress his inmates with his special sight into dreams, but also then by twist of fate, Pharaoh himself. By seeing that Pharaoh’s dreams are a warning about a devastating 7 year drought and famine coming, Joseph is again restored to the palace.


Just as Jacob favoured him right from the beginning, and as Potiphar and also his in-mates in prison favoured him, now even Pharaoh himself makes Joseph “the man in charge of all Egypt” – in other words, Prime Minister under the King himself. 23 years after he was thrown into the pit by the brothers that hated him and his dreaming of favoured status, at the age of 30, he is Prime Minister in the super-power nation of the day.


He sets about drought and famine-proofing Egypt. Of course, people from surrounding tribes and groups would also benefit from Egypt’s food supply in severe famine. Some of those non-Egyptian surrounding people are his own family – his brothers who after some years of drought and extreme hardship come down to Egypt to buy grain and goods to survive.


From here Joseph is the architect of this great scene we have heard. By careful manipulation of events and direct conversation with these brothers who left him for dead out of jealousy and hatred, he manoeuvres them around to find out a few things.

Is Dad still alive? Yes. Are these brothers of mine still full of hatred for me? Not so much hate now, but guilt and fear. “God is punishing us what we did to our brother” they admit to the PM of Egypt. (Gen 42:12).

All the while, Joseph hides his identity from his brothers. He has to be sure they have changed. He is after reconciliation and must know that it has a fair chance of winning over what used to be hatred. If it doesn’t he will have no choice but further pain and sorrow. He obviously hoped for reconciliation intently because several times in the various encounters over a couple of years he gets very emotional about it all and has to duck out of the room to keep his identity from them!


Eventually we get to this scene where the 11 brothers and the dreamer they hated are in one room and Joseph knows that they are ready to lose their hatred and guilt and receive his olive branch of reconciliation.

This is the last time he will hide his identity. “Every one get out!” he commands as the emotion wells up inside him. He finally tells them who he is. He does this by loud wailing and weeping in a forceful show of raw emotion – so much so that all the people out of the room hear the weeping and Pharaoh hears it too!

His brothers are speechless – dumbfounded! They can’t get a word out. They are so shocked and full of fear. Surely the day of judgement on their terrible sin is here. Pay day is here. We are going to cop it. We deserve it. We did it. He is alive and has all the cards in his favour.

The blessed man of God who knows what it is to be hated and abandoned and mistreated, as well as what it is to be loved and blessed by the Lord and to serve the Lord for the good of a whole nation in pain, pours out God’s mercy and blessing on these men. There is such an emotional scene of reconciliation – genuine reconciliation – not just conflict resolution or agreeing to disagree, but gut wrenching repentance, owning up, pouring out of guilt and fear and the undeserved gift of mercy – grace really.

It’s a scene for any of us who are guilty or wrong and fearful of punishment – from others and especially from God.

It’s a scene for any of us who have been hated and abandoned by a brother, sister parent or friend.


It is a scene for anyone who has been the one who has done the hurting the hating and the abandoning.

It’s a scene for any Christian who has forgotten what our overall task is with others – we have this ministry of reconciliation (1 Cor 5:16-20)


16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20


With God’s promise of future, blessing, hope and life, and only with his promise, this kind of reconciliation is possible and given freely to any sinner, anytime, anywhere.

How do we receive this kind of healing? How do we give this kind of olive branch to enemies? How do we find the peace and the purpose that this kind of complete forgiveness brings – forgiveness with each other and with God?


We have to be weak and let God be strong. There is no beginning of this reconciliation without weakness and vulnerability and great risk – before our enemy and before the Lord. There is no other way to a scene like this.

We either trust the Lord and rest in his promises and blessing and presence in us and take the risk and be weak in the struggle or we keep up the charade that we are always right, justified in our rights and in charge of forgiveness. We are not. This Joseph account shows that it is only the God Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who has the grace, the mercy and the power to create this kind of healing and new hope.
We are about to embark on a great journey of how this God of hope, who “hears the cries of his people and their struggle in slavery” will make the first move in making sure his promise of community, name and land to Abraham will come to be.

We will see how he creates a nation of blessing – how he will take this undefined community and baptise them and free them in his promise and power and shape them by hard struggle and mistakes, but then constant leading and restoration to be the nation through which the whole world would be blessed.


I reckon that in this great account of the beginning of a nation’s place and role in the world, called Exodus”, the ‘way out’ we will find God with us in our faith journey here.

We are a community created by God in a wider human community, just as the descendants of Jacob and his 12 sons were a community within a wider community. We need God to show us our particular place and role – our vocation, as his community in the human community, as the Hebrews would discover as they became the nation of Israel.

We will see that our meaning and purpose as defined and given by the Lord happens on the move, in the desert places, when we are tired, hungry and thirsty and longing for the good old days when things were easier.

We will also find that our purpose and hope for now and the future as God’s people takes shape when we are on the mountain in the glory cloud of God’s presence, eating and drinking together with the Lord in all his glory and grace.

So, we pray that the Spirit of Jesus will revive us and restore us as we begin this little journey of “the way out” with the Lord – our exodus with the Lord from whatever is enslaving us.

We pray to or heavenly Father – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, now revealed in Jesus of Nazareth as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that we will get something out of this together for our lives now – for our jobs, our families, our church, our school, our mission.

We seek with confidence because this is no mere children’s story or even just a story – it is the witness of Jesus to us in the power of his Holy Spirit and will divide us, cut us, call us, heal us and be good for us.


Our end of the deal is to seek with the heart. He will show us and shape us in his way.

Prayer:

Jesus, you are the great teacher and revealer of God to us and we need your revelation now. In these days ahead and this account of the mighty works of the Lord and the very human responses of Israel, speak to us and shape us your community in this wonder human community. Amen.


THINGS TO REFLECT ON

Who do I need to be reconciled with and am I and that person ready. Can I see my wrong and admit it and go from there?

What does hindsight of your experiences tell you about God? Did he really mean it all for good and has he been at work all along? Pick a good and a bad experience and ponder them from Joseph’s point of view…..

What can you see of the future? Is it true that like the Hebrews, we can only really walk backwards into our future – keeping our eyes on Jesus and what has already done in our lives so that we stay with him and his Word and let him take care of what behind (or actually in front of us) in our future?